After being charged with bribery on Friday, at least a dozen New Jersey and national Democrats demanded that Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., step down from his position.
The clamour increased after Democratic New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy called Menendez’s alleged acceptance of tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for favours “deeply disturbing” and demanded that Menendez resign immediately. If Menendez were to step down, Murphy would choose a temporary senator to fill Menendez’s seat until the conclusion of his current term in 2025.
“These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system. Murphy said Friday. The governor emphasized that Menendez is innocent until proven guilty, but said “The alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation.”
LeRoy Jones, the head of the New Jersey Democratic Party, echoed the governor’s plea, saying that Menendez should step down so that his legal issues don’t influence voters in the forthcoming state legislative elections in November.
“The allegations contained in the indictment that was unsealed today, if they are proven to be true, are incredibly serious and raise disturbing questions,” Jones wrote in a statement late Friday.
“In the interest of ensuring that New Jerseyans continue to be granted the federal representation that they deserve, and to make sure that our party is able to keep its focus on the critical upcoming state legislative session in November, I believe that the best course of action is for Senator Menendez to resign so that he can focus his full attention on his legal defense,” he continued.
Federal Representatives from New Jersey Andy Kim, Miki Sherill, Bill Pascrell, and Frank Pallone have all called for Menendez to step down as well.
Kim was the first New Jersey Democrat to serve in that capacity, representing the state’s 3rd Congressional District in the state’s centre.
“These allegations are serious and alarming. It doesn’t matter what your job title is or your politics — no one in America is above the law,” Kim told The Hill in a statement. “The people of New Jersey absolutely need to know the truth of what happened, and I hope the judicial system works thoroughly and quickly to bring this truth to light.”
“In the meantime, I don’t have confidence that the Senator has the ability to properly focus on our state and its people while addressing such a significant legal matter,” he continued. “He should step down.”
Soon later, several members of Congress commented. In an interview with CNN, Rep. Den Phillips, D-Minn., stated that Democrats must “walk that talk” if they want to rebuild faith in the government.
“Yes, I am a Democrat and so is Sen. Menendez, but based on what I have seen, I am disappointed and yes, I think he should resign,” Phillips said.
Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-N.C.) asserted that Menendez must be held to the same standard as when Democrats demanded that disgraced Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) resign for engaging in “highly unethical behaviour.” Santos was charged with money laundering and fraud, but he has defied pleas from both parties to step down and plans to seek for office again in 2024.
“I called on Rep. Santos to resign when he was indicted because I read the indictment and, at minimum, it detailed highly unethical behavior. The same standard must apply to Sen. Menendez,” Jackson posted on X. “The indictment, at minimum, details behavior far below acceptable standards for a U.S. Senator. He should resign.”
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder joined the chorus on X, writing, “As both a leader in the Democratic Party & the former Attorney General and given the nature of the charges, I call upon Senator Menendez to resign.”
“The nation will be better served if he steps aside and allows a transition to occur that will best serve the people of New Jersey,” Holder wrote.
The indictment of Menendez was made public at a press conference on Friday morning by U.S. Attorney Damian Williams.
“Today, I’m announcing that my office has obtained a three-count indictment charging Senator Robert Menendez, his wife, Nadine Menendez, and three New Jersey businessmen, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes for bribery offenses,” Williams said.
According to the indictment, the couple accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for using Menendez’s power and influence as a senator to seek to protect and enrich Hana, Uribe, and Daibes and to benefit the Arab Republic of Egypt.”
The allegedly accepted bribes included gold, cash, mortgage payments, remuneration for showing up late or not at all, a luxury car, and “other things of value.” Menendez revealed that in 2020, his family will receive gold bars.
Menenez has insisted that he won’t quit and has vigorously denied any misconduct.
“Those who believe in justice believe in innocence until proven guilty. I intend to continue to fight for the people of New Jersey with the same success I’ve had for the past five decades,” Menendez said in a defiant statement. “This is the same record of success these very same leaders have lauded all along. It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere.”