Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is refusing to resign, ignoring calls from fellow Democrats, after he was indicted in connection with an alleged years-long bribery scheme involving a foreign government.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York charged Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, with three conspiracy counts on Friday over what prosecutors describe as a “corrupt bribery agreement that benefited the Menendez couple, three New Jersey businessmen and the government of Egypt. New Jersey’s senior senator allegedly accepted a $60,000 Mercedes Benz C-Class sedan, 13 gold bars and $566,000 in cash in exchange for providing Egyptian officials with sensitive U.S. government information that was not available to the U.S. public. Prosecutors have also accused the couple of accepting numerous additional gifts.
In response to the indictment, a number of prominent Democrats have called for Menendez to step down, including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “Under our legal system, Senator Menendez and the other defendants have not been found guilty and will have the ability to present evidence disputing these charges, and we must respect the process,” Murphy said in a statement. “However, the alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation.”
As calls for his resignation mount, Menendez has remained defiant. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters that Menendez has stepped down from his role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “until the matter is resolved.”
Menendez, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 2006, claimed that he is being targeted because of his ethnicity and vowed to clear his name. “I’m not going anywhere,” the senator said in a statement Friday.
“Those who believe in justice believe in innocence until proven guilty,” Menendez said. “I intend to continue to fight for the people of New Jersey with the same success I’ve had for the past five decades. This is the same record of success these very same leaders have lauded all along. It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat.”
Menendez narrowly avoided a federal indictment in 2017 after a jury deadlocked on bribery and corruption charges, resulting in a mistrial. He was also investigated for corruption by then-New Jersey Attorney General Chris Christie in 2006.