Senate Democrats turned against Robert Menendez Tuesday, with fellow New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and the chairman of the Democrats’ fund-raising arm sending the strongest signal yet that they won’t support him as he fights federal corruption charges.
(Bloomberg) — Senate Democrats turned against Robert Menendez Tuesday, with fellow New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and the chairman of the Democrats’ fund-raising arm sending the strongest signal yet that they won’t support him as he fights federal corruption charges.
Booker’s rejection of his state’s senior senator, a longtime political ally, makes it clear that Menendez’s indictment has made him toxic for Democrats before the 2024 election. More than a dozen senators have joined the call for Menendez to resign, with the floodgates opening on Tuesday.
“The details of the allegations against Senator Menendez are of such a nature that the faith and trust of New Jerseyans as well as those he must work with in order to be effective have been shaken to the core,” Booker said in a statement.
Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, joined the chorus later Tuesday, saying Menendez lost the public trust and “is no longer able to serve effectively in the Senate.” It’s a dire development for Menendez, who is up for reelection next year.
The Justice Department accuses Menendez and his wife, Nadine, of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from three businessmen, including $550,000 in cash, gold bars and a Mercedes Benz. In June 2022, US agents raided a safe deposit box and the Menendez home, finding cash stuffed in envelopes, closets and a safe.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday called the senator a “dedicated public servant” and said he “has a right to due process and a fair trial.” Menendez, who was first elected to the Senate in 2006, has vowed to fight the charges and keep his seat.
Yet his presence on Capitol Hill poses a problem for Democrats. Former President Donald Trump’s multiple indictments have become central to Democrats’ campaigns against him — as well as his GOP allies on Capitol Hill.
“Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost,” Booker said.
The White House refused to weigh in on Menendez’s future.
“We think the senator did the right thing by stepping down from his chairmanship,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said aboard Air Force One, referring to his giving up the leadership of the Foreign Relations Committee. “As it relates to resigning, that is something that that’s up to him and the leadership in the Senate.”
The indictment Friday wasn’t the first for Menendez. He was charged with corruption in 2015, and Booker testified to Menendez’s honesty during his 2017 trial. The jury couldn’t reach a verdict and the judge declared a mistrial. Prosecutors dropped the case in 2018.
Four swing-state Democratic senators facing tough reelection — Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Jon Tester of Montana, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jacky Rosen of Nevada — also demanded Menendez’s resignation on Tuesday.
Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Michael Bennet of Colorado also joined the calls for Menendez’s resignation on Tuesday. Three other Democratic senators — Peter Welch of Vermont, John Fetterman of Pennsylvania and Sherrod Brown of Ohio — had already implored the New Jersey senator to step aside.
“I’ve read the detailed charges against Senator Menendez and find them deeply disturbing,” Tester said. “While he deserves a fair trial like every other American, I believe Senator Menendez should resign for the sake of the public’s faith in the U.S. Senate.”
Baldwin said last week’s indictment “spells out deeply troubling allegations against Senator Menendez that breach the American people’s trust and compromise his ability to effectively represent his constituents.”
Menendez, whose office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has maintained his innocence. He not answer questions Monday as to whether he would run for another term.
“I firmly believe when all the facts are presented I will not only be exonerated, I will still be New Jersey’s senior senator,” he told reporters in New Jersey. “Prosecutors get it wrong sometimes. Unfortunately, I know that.”
–With assistance from Steven T. Dennis.
(Updates with Senator Peters’s call for resignation, in first and fourth paragraphs.)
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