Menendez Is the Latest in a Series of Scandal-Plagued Lawmakers Democrats Try to Force Out

The New Jersey senator faces federal corruption charges, to which he has pled not guilty, and has vowed to stay in office, claiming he will be exonerated.
Menendez Is the Latest in a Series of Scandal-Plagued Lawmakers Democrats Try to Force Out
Senator Bob Menendez and his wife Nadine Menendez arrive at a Manhattan court after they were indicted on bribery charges on Sept.. 27, 2023 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Joe Gomez
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Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is facing a standoff with his own party that mirrors what several other scandal-plagued Democratic lawmakers have experienced before as a growing chorus of his colleagues on Capitol Hill call for his resignation.

Mr. Menendez faces federal corruption charges, to which he has pled not guilty, and has vowed to stay in office, claiming he will be exonerated.

“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,” said Mr. Menendez, who temporarily stepped down as chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations after the indictment was unsealed last week.

A similar act of defiance was displayed by former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) amid allegations by the Democrat state attorney general that he groped women. Mr. Cuomo claimed he did nothing wrong and wouldn’t leave office—though he eventually caved to calls for his resignation.
Former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was also a casualty of pressure from members of the Democratic Party to resign after allegations of sexual misconduct. Mr. Franken left office, though he later said he regretted making the decision before the Senate Ethics Committee had a chance to investigate it.

As calls for Mr. Menendez’s resignation grow with several Democratic Party leaders judging the senator unfit to serve office, critics say Democrats are guilty themselves of ignoring the presumption of innocence.

“Senator Menendez has a right to test the government’s evidence in court, just like any other citizen. He should be judged by jurors and New Jersey’s voters, not by Democratic politicians who now view him as inconvenient to their hold on power,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) posted on X, formerly Twitter.
Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who has also been indicted on several federal charges, also recently stepped in to defend Mr. Menendez’s right to due process.

“He’s innocent until proven guilty,” Mr. Santos added. “This—the media has to stop acting like everybody is guilty before they are even judged at by a jury. So no, I think everybody is innocent until proven guilty. When did we walk away from the fabric of our Constitution that everybody has a presumption of innocence?”

Mr. Santos shared a post on X, reiterating that he believes the government has the burden of proving its case.
Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) leaves the Capitol Hill Club as members of the press follow him in Washington on Jan. 31, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) leaves the Capitol Hill Club as members of the press follow him in Washington on Jan. 31, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Republican party leaders have so far stopped short of calling for Mr. Santos to resign after his indictment, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) saying, “a person is innocent until proven guilty.”

The move to allow due process to play out for Mr. Santos has been criticized by Democrats, who say it’s proof Republicans have a habit of not policing their own.

“Republicans don’t just fail to police their criminal leaders, they nominate them for president,” Democratic strategist and founder of the Texas Lonestar Project Matt Angle told The Epoch Times, referring to former President Donald Trump’s present legal woes.

In a rare moment of agreement, Mr. Angle’s support for the quick ouster of Mr. Menendez is shared by Republican strategist Brian Seitchik.

“Bob Menendez is as dirty as the day is long, we knew that last decade when he was indicted, so this comes as not at all surprising … but it certainly is of note that Democrats have now piled on, specifically the governor of New Jersey and the junior Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey,” Mr. Seitchik told The Epoch Times.

Menendez Could Create Political Problems For Democrats

The longer Mr. Menendez stays in office, the more electoral problems it could create for Democrats as the senator’s scandal continues to distract from other issues. Mr. Sceitchik believes that regardless of the political headache it may cause for the Democratic Party, Mr. Menendez is staying put unless he’s convicted.

“One of the lessons of modern politics for George Santos and for others is if you’re willing to endure the shame, then you get to keep your seat. They’re not going to force him out of office, he has to resign because he’s not going to be convicted in the immediate future—the legal system will take time. I just don’t see him getting out even though it will have an adverse impact on Democrats, both in New Jersey and nationally.”

Mr. Seitchik believes when combined with the Hunter Biden scandal and President Joe Biden’s possible impeachment, the Menendez scandal paints a “very dirty picture” for Democrats nationally.

“It is too early to say what the mood of the country looks like. Although if you see the recent national polling (and national polling should be taken with a grain of salt) regarding the presidential campaign, there is legitimate movement in the last week or two in Trump’s direction.”

He added that if Mr. Menendez runs for re-election in 2024, he would be vulnerable to a Republican defeating him.

“We have a dirty incumbent, an embattled incumbent. We have potentially (it’s way too early to say) but potentially an environment moving in the Republicans’ direction. Now, New Jersey just needs a Republican candidate who is a good candidate and a disciplined candidate with resources.”

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)
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)

Menendez to Speak to Democratic Senators Thursday

Even though over two dozen Democratic senators have called for Mr. Menendez to resign, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has yet to make a similar demand.

Speaking to reporters hours after Mr. Menendez’s Wednesday court appearance, Mr. Schumer did not call for Mr. Menendez to resign and said Mr. Menendez would address his Democratic colleagues on Thursday during a closed-door lunch

“We all know that senators -- for senators, there’s a much much higher standard. And clearly, when you read the indictment, Sen. Menendez fell way, way below that standard,” Mr. Schumer said reported AP.

It’s suspected that Mr. Schumer may make a decision as to whether to demand Mr. Menendez’s resignation after their meeting on Thursday. When asked directly by reporters about it, Mr. Schumer only said, “We will see what happens.”

The latest case is the second time Mr. Menendez has been charged with corruption. An indictment in 2015 ended in a mistrial in 2018 after a jury failed to reach a decision and a judge issued an acquittal.

For this recent case, Mr. Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, were indicted on Sept. 22 by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who has filed multiple counts of conspiracy against them, including bribery, honest services fraud, and extortion.
Mr. Menendez and his wife allegedly accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, as detailed in charge documents (pdf) obtained by The Epoch Times. Officials claimed that bribes took the forms of cash, gold, and even contributions toward a mortgage. In June 2022, when executing a search warrant at the Menendez residence, authorities seized both gold and cash.
Savannah Hulsey Pointer contributed to this report.
Joe Gomez is an award-winning journalist who has worked across the globe for several major networks including: CBS, CNN, FOX News, and most recently NBC News Radio as a national correspondent based out of Washington. He has covered major disasters and worked as an investigative reporter in many danger zones.
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