Sen. Bob Menendez was under intense pressure to resign on Tuesday as a surge of Democratic colleagues in the Senate, including fellow New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker, urged him to step down over federal bribery charges against him.
More than 20 Senate Democrats have said Menendez should resign, including several who are running for re-election next year. After Booker issued his statement, calls for his resignation quickly followed, including from Michigan Senator Gary Peters, the head of the Senate Democratic campaign arm. Menendez has refused to leave office but has not yet said whether he will run for re-election next year.
Menendez, the longtime chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and top Democratic leader, and his wife, Nadine, are accused of using his position to help Egypt’s authoritarian government in an indictment unsealed Friday and filed with federal prosecutors. officials pressured him to drop corruption charges including cases against his friends. The three-count indictment alleges that three New Jersey businessmen paid them bribes — gold bars, a luxury car and cash — in exchange for corrupt conduct.
Booker said in a statement that while Menendez deserves the presumption of innocence, senators should be held to a higher standard and that the details of the charges against Menendez have “fundamentally shaken” voters’ confidence and trust. . He said the indictment against Menendez includes “shocking allegations of corruption and specific, disturbing details of misconduct.”
“As senators, we operate with the public’s trust,” Booker said. “This trust is critical to our ability to do our work and fulfill our responsibilities to our constituents.”
Menendez has denied any wrongdoing, saying he was simply acting like any senator and that the nearly $500,000 in cash found at his home – including some stuffed in pockets – came from personal savings and was kept at Keep it on hand in case of emergencies. Authorities seized about 10 envelopes filled with cash bearing the fingerprint of one of the other defendants in the case, according to the indictment.
Menendez, his wife and two businessman co-defendants are due to go on trial on Wednesday.
Another defendant, Wael Hana, was arrested Tuesday at New York’s JFK Airport after voluntarily returning from Egypt to face charges. According to the indictment, Harner served as a conduit between Egyptian military and intelligence officials and Menendez, passing information and arranging meetings between senators.
Menendez’s defiance in recent days has been similar to his insistence on his innocence eight years ago after first facing federal bribery charges – a case that ended with a deadlocked jury in 2017. As he did then, he will step down from his leadership role. Foreign Relations panel under Senate Democratic caucus rules. But he’s made it clear he’s not going anywhere.
“I recognize that this will be the largest fight yet, but as I have said throughout this process, I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be acquitted, but I will still be New Jersey’s senior senator,” Menendez said Monday from the campus of Hudson County Community College in Union City, where he grew up.
Still, calls for his resignation stand in stark contrast to his first case. Booker’s call is particularly important in the clubby Senate, where in-state colleagues tend to avoid publicly criticizing one another. Booker and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham testified as character witnesses at Menendez’s last trial.
Growing calls from Democrats for Menendez to resign have put increasing pressure on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democratic leaders, who have so far not recommended that Menendez step down. Schumer has not commented on the indictment since saying in a statement on Friday that Menendez would resign from the foreign relations panel.
The White House also declined to comment. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One that “the senator’s resignation as chairman is the right thing to do.” She did not say whether President Joe Biden believed he should resign or comment on his How presence will affect public confidence in the Senate.
“This is who the Senate leadership is speaking to, who Senator Menendez is speaking to,” she said.
Democratic senators who called on Menendez to step down on Monday and Tuesday include Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Jon Tester of Montana, Jackie Rosen of Nevada, Bob Kaye of Pennsylvania West, Michael Bennett of Colorado, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Mazie Hirono and Martin Heinrich of Hawaii, New Mexico Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Sen. Congressman Raphael Warnock, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ed Markey.
Sens. John Fetterman, D-Pa., Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, all called for his resignation over the weekend. The number of calls to the Senate Democratic caucus is expected to increase.
If Menendez does run for re-election, he will face at least one challenger in the primary: Democratic Rep. Andy Kim announced over the weekend that he will run for Senate amid charges against the state’s senior senator .
Menendez is likely to run without party support. Peters, who was urged to resign on Tuesday, chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which provides campaign support to incumbent Democratic senators and challengers.
Peters said in a statement Monday night that Menendez was unable to serve effectively. “As elected officials, the public entrusts us to serve their best interests and the best interests of our country,” Peters said.
In court Tuesday, a judge ordered Harner to be released pending trial on $300,000 cash bail and $5 million bond.
Harner’s attorney, Lawrence Lusterberg, said after the hearing that his client was innocent and had a long-standing friendship with Nadine Menendez that predated her marriage to the senator. Year. “He pleads not guilty because he is not guilty,” Lusterberg said.
Prosecutors said Hana gave the senator’s wife, Nadine Menendez, a “low-profile or faceless job,” paid her $23,000 home mortgage and made $30,000 for her consulting firm. A dollar check, promised her a cash envelope, sent her exercise equipment, and made a few purchases. Some gold bars found in the couple’s home.
Hana also sought help from senators to fend off criticism from U.S. agriculture officials after Egyptian officials gave the company a lucrative monopoly on certifying that imported meat met religious standards, the indictment said.