More than half of Senate Democrats now say Bob Menendez should resign over bribery bombshell

Days after being federally indicted, Menendez is facing mounting pressure from his own party to give up his seat

Ariana Baio
Wednesday 27 September 2023 16:03 BST
Pelosi says ‘It would probably be a good idea’ for Menendez to resign

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez has so far refused to resign after being federally indicted on corruption and bribery charges, but a growing number of his fellow Democratic colleagues - now more than half of the Senate - are urging him to step down.

In the second federal indictment of his career, Mr Menendez is accused of accepting lavish gifts, gold bars and cash in exchange for providing favours to three businessmen. The most serious allegations include giving sensitive information to the government of Egypt to increase US aid.

Given the severity of the charges, at least half of the Democratic senators have called for Mr Menendez to step down.

Cory Booker – Mr Menendez’s longtime mentee and counterpart in representing New Jersey – joined the call for resignation on Tuesday, calling the allegations “shocking” and “disturbing.”

“Senator Menendez fiercely asserts his innocence and it is therefore understandable that he believes stepping down is patently unfair. But I believe this is a mistake,” Mr Booker said in a statement. “I believe stepping down is best for those Senator Menendez has spent his life serving.”

Mr Booker, who has worked with Mr Menendez for nearly a decade, said he found the allegations “hard to reconcile” with the person he knows but suggested Mr Menendez spend time focusing on his trial.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said she shared the same views as Mr Booker regarding Mr Menendez stepping down.

Mr Menendez and his wife, Nadine, were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.

The three New Jersey businessmen are charged with the first two counts.

So far, Mr Menendez has maintained his innocence and refused to step down – claiming calls for his resignation are people “rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat.”

But other senators have called on Mr Menendez to resign his seat in order to focus on his trial.

Senator John Fetterman from Pennsylvania said on X that Mr Menendez should choose an “honorable exit” and resign to focus on his trial.

Bob Casey, the other Pennsylvania senator, joined Mr Fettermans’ call for resignation.

Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey both encouraged Mr Menendez to step down as well.

Ms Warren told The Boston Globe that the charges are “serious” and said “It’s time for Senator Menendez to step away from the Senate

Mr Markey said the “public’s trust has been broken” with Mr Menendez.

By Tuesday, Mr Menendez faced growing pressure from a slew of other Democratic senators to resign.

Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen, New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly, Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper Montana Senator Jon Tester, Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth (who also sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) and New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan all encouraged Mr Menendez to resign.

Senators Gary Peters (the Democratic campaign chair) and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan agreed the New Jersey senator should give up his seat.

Speaking with NBC News, Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota said she would call on the Senate to investigate Mr Menendez.

“He has said he won’t, so that’s why I’ve called for the Senate investigation, the Senate ethics investigation to begin immediately separate and apart from the ongoing criminal case,” Ms Klobuchar said.

Chris Murphy, the senator from Connecticut, told The Hill that he believes “the best pass path forward” is for Mr Menendez to resign.

Mr Murphy sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – which Mr Menendez stepped down from following his indictment.

“It’s a devastating series of allegations and as a committee, we now have a responsibility to understand what Egypt was doing and what Egypt thought it was getting,” Mr Murphy told The Hill. “There are serious implications for US policy towards Egypt. If, as the indictment suggests, they were trying to use illicit means to curry favour on the committee.”

Richard Blumenthal, the other senator from Connecticut, said the allegations against Mr Menendez were “deeply troubling” and “antithetical” to his position, CT Insider reported.

Vermont Senators Bernie Sanders and Senator Peter Welch both asked Mr Menendez to resign as well.

Mr Sanders, an independent senator, caucuses with the Democrats.

“I believe he should resign, and I will be donating to an appropriate charity the contributions made by Senator Menendez to my recent reelection campaign,” a statement from Mr Blumenthal’s office said.

On Wednesday, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois joined the call for Mr Menendez to resign.

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