WASHINGTON, D.C. — Democratic Sen. Cory Booker is calling upon Sen. Bob Menendez to resign, saying in a statement that the federal bribery charges unveiled last week against his fellow New Jersey Democrat contain ”shocking allegations of corruption and specific, disturbing details of wrongdoing.”
A growing number of Democratic senators — at least 11 so far — are joining Booker in calling for Menendez to end his three-term tenure.
Menendez has firmly rejected that idea.
Both Menendez — a former chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee — and his wife Nadine were indicted last Friday. He has been accused of using his position to aid the authoritarian government of Egypt, and to pressure federal prosecutors to drop a case against a friend.
The three-count indictment cites bribes — which took the form of gold bars, a luxury car and cash — paid to the Menendezes by three New Jersey businessmen — in exchange for illegal influence-based considerations — legally deemed to be corrupt acts.
Menendez continues to deny any wrongdoing, saying he merely “performed as any senator would”, and that the nearly half-million dollars in cash found in his home was “from personal savings and kept at hand for emergencies”.
Menendez’ defiance in the face of criticism from his colleagues continues, as it did when he first faced federal bribery charges eight years ago. That particular case ended with a deadlocked jury. As he did before, he has stepped down as chairman of the Foreign Affairs panel (per the rules of the Senate Democratic caucus), but has otherwise made one thing quite clear:
He’s not going anywhere.
“I recognize this will be the biggest fight yet, 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 told an audience on Monday at Hudson County Community College’s campus in Union City, where he grew up.
Calls for his resignation this time around are in sharp contrast to his first case, however.
The clubby Senate is known to be a sort of political “safe space”, where home state colleagues tend to stay away from public criticism of each other. The circumstances also put increased pressure on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democratic leaders, who have so far stopped short of recommending that Menendez step down.
Sen. Booker said it is a “mistake” for Menendez to say that stepping down would be unfair, as the case has not yet been tried. ″The details of the allegations against Senator Menendez are of such a nature that the faith and trust of New Jerseyans as well as those he must work with in order to be effective have been shaken to the core,” Booker said, adding that he believes resigning wasn’t necessarily an admission of guilt.
Others calling for Menendez to step down on Monday included: Democratic Senators Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Jon Tester of Montana, Jacky Rosen of Nevada, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.
Democratic Senators John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, Peter Welch of Vermont and Sherrod Brown of Ohio all called for his resignation over course of the weekend.
Other Democratic leaders, including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, have also called for Menendez’s resignation.
Mary Clare Janolick of The Associated Press wrote the original version of this article.