Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has announced that he's not seeking to run for the seat of incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) amid mounting calls for the lawmaker to resign after recently being indicted on bribery charges.
"No, I have no interest in being in the United States Senate," Mr. Christie responded.
Ms. Welker then pressed him by asking again if he would "rule it out completely."
"Yes, I have," Mr. Christie said. "I have throughout my entire career. I had a chance to appoint myself to the United States Senate ... in 2013 when Frank Lautenberg passed away and I was governor."
"If I didn't appoint myself to the United States Senate—the easiest way to get there—I sure as heck am not going to run for it," he explained.
Calls for ResignationDespite mounting calls for his resignation, Mr. Menendez said on Sept. 22 that he's "not going anywhere." However, he did step down from his leading role on the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
A number of Democrats also called on Mr. Menendez to step down, including Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who said the seriousness of the charges will make it difficult for him to serve the state.
Addressing the allegations and resignation calls, Mr. Menendez said that there was an "active smear campaign" against him.
"For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave," he said in a statement.
This is the second time Mr. Menendez—a U.S. senator since 2006 who is up for reelection in 2024—has been indicted on corruption charges.
Previous corruption charges, including bribery, were brought against Mr. Menendez in 2015. According to charging documents, the senator accepted nearly $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions from Dr. Salomon Melgen in exchange for taking actions that benefited the doctor, including supporting visa applications for the doctor's girlfriends.
In 2017, a jury could not reach a decision on the matter, resulting in a mistrial. Mr. Menendez was then acquitted by a judge of some of the charges. Federal prosecutors dropped the rest.
The Senate Ethics Committee found in 2018 that Mr. Menendez knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts, such as private flights and lodging at a villa in the Dominican Republic, from the doctor without obtaining proper approval. The senator also failed to disclose these gifts, which was required by Senate rules and federal law. The committee also said Mr. Menendez, while accepting the gifts, used his position as a senator "to advance Dr. Melgen's personal and business interests" in violation of the law and Senate rules.
Dr. Melgen was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison. Former President Donald Trump commuted Mr. Melgen's sentence.