Mr Booker and Mr Menendez have worked together for a decade since Mr Booker won a special election in 2013, and the two are personally close.
“Sen Menendez is again facing a federal indictment, one that contains shocking allegations of corruption and specific, disturbing details of wrongdoing,” Mr Booker said in a statement. “I’ve found the allegations hard to reconcile with the person I know.”
Mr Booker’s words contrast with his previous positions. During Mr Menendez’s 2017 corruption trial, Mr Booker testified on the senator’s behalf.
He added that a jury of Mr Menendez’s peers will determine if he is guilty. But Mr Booker said senators had a higher standard of conduct.
“Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost,” he said. “Sen Menendez has made these sacrifices in the past to serve. And in this case he must do so again. I believe stepping down is best for those Senator Menendez has spent his life serving.”
Mr Booker’s remarks come as many members of New Jersey’s Democratic congressional delegation called for Mr Menendez to resign. So far, Sens John Fetterman (D-PA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jon Tester (D-MT) have called on Mr Menendez to resign.
The indictment accused Mr Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his wife Nadine Menendez and three New Jersey businessmen – Fred Daibes, Wael Hana and Jose Uribe – of bribery and corruption. Mr Menendez and Ms Menendez were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.
Specifically, the indictment said Mr Menendez engaged in multiple criminal schemes, including sharing “sensitive US government information” among other actions to benefit the Egyptian government; pushing the US government to secure an exclusive business deal with one of the co-defendants and pressuring prosecutors to drop investigations.
Mr Menendez reportedly agreed to interfere in a federal case into Mr Daibes in exchange for cash, furniture and gold bars. At one point, Mr Menendez reportedly conducted an internet search to learn “how much is one kilo of gold worth” and “kilo of gold price.”
Authorities seized $100,000 worth of gold bars and more than $480,000 worth of cash, most of which was stuffed into envelopes or clothing.
Mr Menendez, for his part, has defiantly said he will not resign. The son of Cuban immigrants, Mr Menendez said for more than 30 years, he had “withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account” “because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba.”
-Alex Woodward contributed reporting
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