Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has stopped short of calling for newly indicted Sen. Bob Menendez to resign, breaking from the increasing number of fellow Democrats publicly demanding that their colleague step down.
On Wednesday, the New Jersey senator pleaded not guilty to federal charges accusing him of taking bribes in exchange for using his political power to do favors for multiple businessmen and further the interests of the Egyptian government.
Over the past couple of days, however, more and more Democrats have voiced the opinion that their colleague should leave office. As of Wednesday, at least 30 Senate Democrats agreed that Menendez should step down — including fellow New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and No. 2 Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois. Others in the chamber who haven’t pressed for his departure are stressing that Menendez is entitled to the presumption of innocence while his case plays out.
Schumer told reporters on Wednesday that he was “deeply disappointed” and “disturbed” when he read the indictment against Menendez, but the majority leader declined to call for his resignation.
“I’ve known Sen. Menendez a very long time, and it was truly, truly upsetting,” the New York Democrat said. “We all know that for senators, there’s a much, much higher standard. And clearly, when you read the indictment, Sen. Menendez fell way, way below that standard.”
Schumer said that Menendez will address the Democratic caucus Thursday, “and we’ll see what happens after that.”
The indictment includes three counts against Menendez. He is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from three New Jersey businessmen in exchange for helping Cairo obtain military aid and attempting to meddle in criminal probes.
The businessmen — Jose Uribe, Fred Daibes and Wael Hana — also pleaded not guilty.
The indictment marks the second corruption case Menendez has faced in a decade, with jurors failing to reach a verdict in 2017 over different allegations.