Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey has declined to resign from his position following his federal indictment.
News broke on Sept. 22 that Menendez and his wife, Nadine, had been charged with bribery by the Attorney General of the Southern District of New York. The Democrat is accused of accepting bribes from former bank chairman Frank Diabes and his associates and of using the power of his office to influence Egyptian arms sales.
“I understand how deeply concerning this can be,” he told reporters on Sept. 25 at a press conference. “However, the allegations against me are just that – allegations.”
“I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated but I still will be the New Jersey senior senator,” said Menedez. “A cornerstone of the foundation of the American democracy and our justice system is the principle that all people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. All people. I ask for nothing more and deserve nothing less.”
“The court of public opinion is no substitute for our revered justice system. We cannot set aside the presumption of innocence for political expediency when the harm is irrevocable,” he added.
Menendez said that the public was given a limited set of facts that have been framed to be “as salacious as possible.”
“Remember, prosecutors get it wrong sometimes,” said the Democrat.
The senator stressed that his record proved he has supported “civil society and human rights defenders in Egypt and everywhere else in the world” and that those who cast doubt on his actions “simply don’t know the facts.”
Menedez, who repeatedly invoked his Cuban heritage, also addressed the media in Spanish.
In 2015, Menedez was accused and indicted for allegedly accepting at least $1 million in bribes from a Palm Beach ophthalmologist. The federal case ended in a mistrial in 2017.
High-ranking Democrats in New Jersey and in Congress have called on the senator to resign in the wake of the grand jury indictment.
“The allegations in the indictment against Senator Menendez and four other defendants are deeply disturbing. These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy in a statement hours after Menedez was indicted, per Politico. “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.”
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin echoed Murphy’s calls for Menedez’s resignation, which he said would allow “New Jersey, and America, to move forward.”
“The charges laid out against Senator Menendez today go against everything we should believe as public servants,” said Coughlin, per CNBC. “We are given the public’s trust, and once that trust is broken, we cannot continue.”
New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the situation “extremely serious” while appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sept. 24.
“The situation is quite unfortunate, but I do believe that it is in the best interest for Sen. Menendez to resign in this moment,” she said. “As you mentioned, consistency matters. It shouldn’t matter whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat.”
“He’s entitled to the presumption of innocence, but he cannot continue to wield influence over national policy, especially given the serious and specific nature of the allegations,” said U.S. Senator John Fetterman on Sept. 23. “I hope he chooses an honorable exit and focuses on his trial.”
New Jersey Congressman Andy Kim announced he will challenge Menedez in 2024, writing that he felt “compelled to run against him.”
“Not something I expected to do, but NJ deserves better,” he wrote on X. “We cannot jeopardize the Senate or compromise our integrity.”