Menendez Defiant in First Appearance Since Bombshell Indictment
‘Those who rushed to judgment, you have done so based on a limited set of facts framed by the prosecution to be as salacious as possible,’ the senator says. ‘Remember, prosecutors get it wrong.’
The Democrat from New Jersey who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Menendez, will, despite an indictment in respect of bribery, stick to his post and refuse to resign.
That’s the vow of the senator at a press conference Monday, where he rebuked fellow Democrats who have called for him to resign and denied allegations of corruption following the handing up of an indictment in the federal court at Manhattan Friday.
Mr. Menendez insisted, “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.”
Mr. Menedez said he deserves the same presumption of innocence that every American enjoys, saying that “the court of public opinion is no substitute for our revered justice system.”
“Those who rushed to judgment, you have done so based on a limited set of facts framed by the prosecution to be as salacious as possible,” he said. “Remember, prosecutors get it wrong.”
Though Mr. Menendez did not explicitly announce that he would be running for re-election in 2024, his belief that he will be New Jersey’s senior senator when the case is resolved suggests he plans to seek re-election next year.
Mr. Menendez stands accused of accepting bribes in exchange for using his position in the Senate to affect American foreign policy in order to help an Egyptian Halal certification company maintain a state-granted monopoly on imports from America.
At the press conference, Mr. Menendez said that the large sums of cash investigators found stashed around his house were withdrawn from his bank account and was money that he had made legally. He didn’t comment on the gold bars or the Mercedes Benz that also were found by investigators.
“Now this may seem old-fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal savings accounts based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years,” Mr. Menendez said. “I look forward to addressing other issues in trial.”
Mr. Menendez, in refusing to step down, defied calls from members of his own party both in his home state and nationally. Mr. Menendez has been largely abandoned by New Jersey Democrats, including Governor Murphey since the indictment was unsealed Friday.
“The allegations in the indictment against Senator Menendez and four other defendants are deeply disturbing,” Mr. Murphy said Friday. “These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system.”
The junior senator from New Jersey, Cory Booker, has been conspicuously quiet concerning the new charges against Mr. Menendez, who has been a longtime ally of Mr. Booker..
Just one member of the upper chamber, Senator Fetterman, has called on Mr. Menendez to resign since the indictment became public.
“Senator Menendez should resign. 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,” Mr. Fetterman said in a statement. “I hope he chooses an honorable exit and focuses on his trial.”
While members of the Senate haven’t come out in support of Mr. Menendez, they’ve stopped short of calling for his resignation, emphasizing the presumption of innocence in their statements.
“Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey,” the majority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said in a statement. “He has a right to due process and a fair trial.”
Members of the House, with the exception of Senator Menendez’s son, Congressman Robert Menendez, have largely abandoned Mr. Menendez as well, calling on him to resign.
“As a Latina, there are absolutely ways in which there is systemic bias. But I think what is here in this indictment is quite clear,” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told CBS.
This is not the first time Mr. Menedez has faced corruption allegations. Charges of corruption against Mr. Menendez ended in a mistrial in 2017 after the prosecution failed to convince a jury.