Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey rejected calls for his resignation following his indictment on federal bribery charges, striking a defiant tone Monday in his first public comments on the allegations.
“I recognize this will be the biggest fight yet,” Menendez said Monday in Union City, where he started his political career. “But as I have stated throughout this whole process, I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey’s senior senator.”
Menendez and his wife, Nadine, have been charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.
Federal prosecutors in New York alleged the couple received hundreds of thousands of dollars and lavish luxury gifts in exchange for the senator wielding his influence to benefit three New Jersey business associates and the government of Egypt. The businessmen also face charges. Menendez insisted on Monday that he has “always worked to hold accountable those countries, including Egypt, for human rights abuses,” and “those who are trying to malign my actions as it relates to Egypt simply do not know the facts.”
The indictment said federal agents found stacks of cash hidden throughout Menendez’s home during a search last year. On Monday, the senator said he has withdrawn “thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings” over the last 30 years, “which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba.”
“This may seem old-fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal saving account, based on the income that I had lawfully derived over those 30 years,” he added.
Menendez said he would address the other allegations at trial.
Menendez last week denied the allegations and resisted calls to resign, saying “I’m not going anywhere.” He and his co-defendants are due in court on Wednesday.
The senator did step down temporarily as the chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as required under Senate Democratic Caucus rules.
On Monday, Menendez insisted he had not lost the trust of his constituents in New Jersey, despite the comments from some of the lawmakers from the state who had called for his resignation, including the state’s Democratic governor, Phil Murphy.
“For now, I remain focused on doing the important work I do every day on behalf of the 9 million people who call New Jersey home, including doing everything we can this week to avoid a government shutdown,” Menendez said.
New Jersey’s other Democratic Sen. Cory Booker has not yet weighed in. And only one Democratic senator has called for him to step down: John Fetterman of neighboring Pennsylvania.
The senator from New Jersey has served since 2006 and is up for reelection in 2024. Democratic Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey announced over the weekend that he is mounting a primary challenge against Menendez.
New Jersey’s former Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who is currently running for president, said on Sunday that he has “no interest” in running for the Senate seat in 2024.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York on Sunday joined the chorus of prominent Democratic lawmakers calling for Menendez’s resignation. Calling the situation “quite unfortunate,” Ocasio-Cortez said on “Face the Nation” that “it is in the best interest for Sen. Menendez to resign in this moment.”
In Monday’s statement, Menendez said some of those calling for his resignation “because they see a political opportunity for themselves or those around them.”
“All I humbly ask for in this moment, in my colleagues in Congress, the elected leaders and the advocates of New Jersey that I have worked with for years, as well as each person who calls New Jersey home, is to pause and allow for all the facts to be presented.”
Menendez was indicted in 2015 on roughly a dozen charges, including bribery and conspiracy, following accusations he accepted gifts from a wealthy Democratic donor in exchange for political favors. That case ended in a mistrial.
Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.
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