New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez is facing a rapidly growing number of calls from his Democratic colleagues to resign from office following a damning indictment on charges of corruption and bribery.
The indictment, which was made public on Friday, was largely met with silence from Senate Democrats, save for Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman, who on Saturday called for Menendez’s resignation. “Senator Menendez should resign,” he wrote. “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.”
But the floodgates opened after Menendez said on Monday that he has no intention of resigning, and as of Tuesday at least 17 other Democratic senators, including Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jon Tester (D-Mt.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) have joined Fetterman in demanding Menendez step down from office. Multiple House Democrats, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have also said Menendez should resign.
On Friday, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York charged Menendez and his wife Nadie with various criminal counts related to conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion. The pair were accused of having “engaged in a corrupt relationship with three New Jersey associates and businessmen,” who were also indicted. Menendez is further accused of having exploited his position as Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to corruptly push through policies that were favorable to the government of Egypt.
Shortly after the charges against him were announced, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that Menendez had chosen to step down from his position as Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, but that would remain in office. “Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey,” Schumer said. “He has a right to due process and a fair trial.”
Menendez held a press conference addressing the allegations against him, proclaiming his innocence as well as his intention to continue serving in office. That afternoon, Sens. Sherrod Brown and Peter Welch called for his resignation.
“Senator Menendez has broken the public trust and should resign from the U.S. Senate,” Brown wrote in a statement. Welch wrote that while “Menendez is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” the “shocking and specific allegations against Senator Menendez have wholly compromised his capacity” to serve the people of New Jersey.
Early on Tuesday, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jon Tester (D-Mt.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) issued their own calls for Menendez to step down. So too did Menendez’s colleague in New Jersey, Sen. Cory Booker. “Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgement that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost,” Booker wrote.
When asked by The Boston Globe if she felt Menendez should leave office, Warren replied “Yes. These are serious charges, and it’s time for Sen. Menendez to step away from the Senate and concentrate on his legal defense.”
“I’ve read the detailed charges against Senator Menendez and find them deeply disturbing. While he deserves a fair trial like every other American, I believe Senator Menendez should resign for the sake of the public’s faith in the U.S. Senate,” Tester wrote.
Senator Baldwin echoed the affirmation of Menendez’s presumption of innocence, writing that “the indictment spells out deeply troubling allegations against Senator Menendez that breach the American people’s trust and compromise his ability to effectively represent his constituents.”
Sen. Casey issued a brief statement asserting that though Menendez is entitled to the presumption of innocence “serving in public office is a privilege that demands a higher standard of conduct. Senator Menendez should resign.”
Sens. Heinrich, Klobuchar, Kelly, Bennet, Markey, Gillibrand, Hirono, Hassan, and Warnock released statements calling for Menendez’s resignation later on Tuesday.