Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) declared Monday that he would neither resign nor cease running for reelection after he was indicted on corruption charges on Friday.
Stating that those calling for his resignation “have rushed to judgment ... on a limited set of facts,” Menendez declared in a press conference, “I will be exonerated and continue to be the senior senator from New Jersey.”
The district attorney for the Southern District of New York indicted Menendez and his wife, Nadine, for allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, checks and gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz in exchange for aiding the Egyptian government obtain military aid that was being withheld due to accusations of human rights violations. Menendez and his wife are also alleged to have used his position to help three New Jersey businessmen in their business dealings in Egypt and to evade state and federal prosecution.
Menendez defended the hundreds of thousands in cash allegedly found stashed in his home in clothes and envelopes, and said it came from his personal savings account.
“For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba,” Menendez said.
The indictment, however, notes that cash-filled envelopes found by federal agents in Menendez’s home bore the fingerprints and DNA of one of the New Jersey businessmen who allegedly provided the money as a bribe. Menendez did not address the gold bars that were originally purchased by another of the businessmen, nor did he address the Mercedez-Benz purchased for his wife by the third businessman.
This is Menendez’s second corruption indictment in the past eight years. He was previously indicted in 2015 for allegedly pressuring the Department of Health and Human Services to drop a Medicare fraud investigation into Dr. Salomon Melgen in exchange for campaign donations and gifts, like luxury travel and hotel accommodations. The case ended in a hung jury in 2017. The Senate Ethics Committee admonished Menendez in 2018 for “actions [that] reflected discredit upon the Senate.”
Menendez’s defiant declaration that he would not step aside comes after most of the New Jersey Democratic Party establishment called for his resignation. Seven of the state’s nine-member Democratic Party House delegation called for Menendez to resign. (The only member to defend Menendez is his son, Rep. Rob Menendez.) They are joined by Gov. Phil Murphy, State Assembly Leader Craig Coughlin, State Senate President Nicholas Scutari, Democratic State Chair LeRoy Jones and numerous county party leaders.
Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.), who represents a hotly contested swing seat in southern New Jersey, announced Saturday that he would launch a primary campaign against Menendez.
Menendez claimed that these elected lawmakers have “rushed to judgment ... because they see a political benefit for themselves or someone around them.”
So far, Menendez’s Senate colleagues have remained mum. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he would let the prosecution play out. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) is the only senator who joined calls for Menendez to resign.
After Menendez’s press conference, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the chief campaign arm for Senate Republicans, attacked Schumer and other Democrats for remaining “totally silent on the stunning accusations.”