Senator Bob Menedez of New Jersey and his wife, Nadine, pleaded not guilty to federal bribery charges while appearing in a Manhattan court.
The Attorney General for the Southern District of New York has alleged that the couple took bribes in the forms of cash, a luxury car, mortgage payments, and gold bars from three businessmen from New Jersey. In exchange, Menendez purportedly used the influence of his office to aid the men and the Egyptian government.
The senator has been charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion. His wife has been indicted on similar charges and is accused of facilitating the bribes. Mrs. Menendez is believed to have introduced the businessmen to her husband.
Fred Diabes and Jose Uribe, two of the men implicated by the attorney general, entered not guilty pleas on Sept. 27. The third man, Wael Hana, pleaded not guilty on Sept. 26, per Politico.
Menendez is a member of the Democratic Party and has served in the United States Senate for the last 17 years. Prior to his current position, Menendez served as a Congressman for New Jersey for 14 years. He is the current Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The senator was previously indicted on bribery charges in 2015 but the case ended in a mistrial in 2017.
Menendez denied the allegations against him at a press conference on Sept. 25.
“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,” he told reporters. “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. “Remember, prosecutors get it wrong sometimes.”
A wave of high-profile Democrats has called on Menendez to resign, including at least 24 senators and eight members of the House of Representatives.
“The indictment spells out deeply troubling allegations against Senator Menedez that breach the American people’s trust and compromise his ability to effectively represent his constituents,” said Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin in a statement on Sept. 26. “While Senator Menendez enjoys the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and will have his day in court to defend himself, I believe it’s best for his constituents, the American people, and our national security for the Senator to step down.”
Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said that, as the state’s junior senator, he has witnessed Menendez’s “extraordinary work and boundless work ethic.”
“I’ve consistently found Senator Menendez to be intellectually gifted, tough, passionate, and deeply empathic. … I’ve found the allegations hard to reconcile with the person I know,” said Booker in a post on X. “It is not surprising to me that Senator Menendez is again determined to mount a vigorous defense. … A jury of his peers will make the ultimate decisions as to whether he is criminally guilty.”
Booker went on to say there is “another higher standard for public officials” and that it is a “mistake” for Menendez not to step down.
“Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost,” said Booker.