Menendez to Address Democratic Senators Thursday Amid Growing Calls to Resign

Menendez to Address Democratic Senators Thursday Amid Growing Calls to Resign
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) (2nd L), with his wife Nadine Arslanian (R), leaves U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in New York on Sept. 27, 2023. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)
Frank Fang
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is set to speak to the Senate Democratic Caucus on Thursday, one day after he pleaded not guilty to federal bribery charges at a Manhattan court.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Sept. 27 that he was “deeply disappointed” and “disturbed” by the bribery indictment against Mr. Menendez.

“I’ve known Senator Menendez a very long time and it was truly, truly upsetting,” Mr. Schumer said. “But we all know that ... for senators, there’s a much, much higher standard. And clearly, when you read the indictment, Senator Menendez fell way, way below that standard.”

“Tomorrow, he will address the Democratic Caucus and we’ll see what happens after that,” Mr. Schumer added.

On Sept. 22, Mr. Menendez and his wife Nadine were indicted on three conspiracy charges each related to bribery, fraud, and extortion. The couple allegedly accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in the form of cash, gold bars, a luxury vehicle, mortgage payments, and more.

In return for these alleged payoffs, the New Jersey senator agreed to use “his influence and power and breach his official duty” to do favors for three businessmen and advance the interests of the Egyptian government, according to the indictment.

On Wednesday, Mr. Menendez and his wife pleaded not guilty to all charges against them in federal court in Manhattan.
During a Sept. 25 press briefing, Mr. Menendez said the charges against him are categorically false and asked for the presumption of innocence in his case.

“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. Menendez said.

Following a Senate vote on Wednesday, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) will serve as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s chairman, a position previously held by Mr. Menendez before he stepped down following Friday’s indictment.

“I look forward to working with Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and all our members as the committee tackles the most important challenges facing our nation and the world,” Mr. Cardin said in a statement after being named the committee’s chair. “I intend to continue my longstanding work to ensure that human rights, anti-corruption and good governance are woven into America’s foreign policy. We have much work ahead of us.”

Many Democrats in both the House and the Senate are calling on Mr. Mendendez to step down. On Sept. 27, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined the chorus of voices calling for the New Jersey senator’s resignation.

“Leaders in New Jersey, including the Governor and my Senate colleague Cory Booker, have made it clear that Sen. Menendez can no longer serve. He should step down,” Mr. Durbin wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“The charges against Senator Menendez are extremely serious and the details released are deeply disturbing—while Senator Menendez is entitled to his day in court, I believe he should step down and focus on his legal defense,” Ms. Murray said in a statement.

Ms. Murray continued, “If Senator Menendez refuses to resign, I encourage the Senate Ethics Committee to open an investigation into this, separate from the ongoing criminal case.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Mr. Menendez’s charges are a “serious matter.”

“We think the senator did the right thing by stepping down from his chairmanship,” she said on Sept. 26. “As it relates to resigning, that is something that’s up to him and the leadership in the Senate.”

Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
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