Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, returned Monday to Union City, the community where he rose to political prominence, to offer a clear answer to former allies who have called for his resignation in the face of federal bribery charges: No.
“The allegations leveled against me are just that — allegations.” Mr. Menendez said at a news conference at a community college not far from where he grew up, the child of Cuban immigrants.
It was the first time he had appeared publicly since federal prosecutors in Manhattan unsealed a 39-page indictment on Friday that accused him and his wife, Nadine Menendez, of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for wielding his political influence to benefit the government of Egypt and business associates in New Jersey.
Investigators found $550,000 in cash and 13 bars of gold bullion during a June 2022 search of a safe deposit box and the couple’s home in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
Many of New Jersey’s most prominent Democratic leaders have called on Mr. Menendez to step down. On Monday morning, he appeared at the lectern alone.
The indictment depicted a far-reaching web of political corruption involving aid and weapons sales to Egypt and efforts by Mr. Menendez to persuade state and federal prosecutors to go easy on his associates in three criminal cases.
Mr. Menendez was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee until stepping aside on Friday, as required by rules the Senate Democrats adopted to govern themselves.
Mr. Menendez, his wife, and three New Jersey businessmen, who were also accused in the bribery conspiracy, are expected to appear Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan to respond to the charges.
Nadine Menendez, 56, Mr. Menendez’s wife of three years, did not attend the news conference.
New Jersey’s governor, Philip D. Murphy, a close ally of Mr. Menendez, called for the senator’s resignation Friday evening, unleashing a chorus of similar messages from fellow Democratic leaders across the state.
On Saturday, Representative Andy Kim, a third-term Democrat from South Jersey, said he would challenge Mr. Menendez in next year’s primary.
“Not something I expected to do, but NJ deserves better,” Mr. Kim said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “We cannot jeopardize the Senate or compromise our integrity.”
This was a marked departure from 2017, when most Democratic leaders stood solidly at Mr. Menendez’s side while he stood trial in federal court in New Jersey on charges that he had taken bribes from a wealthy doctor in exchange for political favors.