Menendez Digs In, Tells Democrats He Won’t Resign From Senate

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez told fellow Democrats he won’t resign despite a growing chorus of calls from within his own party to do so following his indictment on federal corruption charges.

(Bloomberg) — New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez told fellow Democrats he won’t resign despite a growing chorus of calls from within his own party to do so following his indictment on federal corruption charges. 

The embattled three-term senator spoke for about 15 minutes during a closed-door meeting with Senate Democrats on Thursday and said he planned to stay in his seat, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin said.

“He’s going to vigorously defend his innocence,” Manchin said. Menendez, he said, didn’t address he’ll run for reelection next year.

Most other Democrats, including several who have called for his resignation, refused to disclose any details of the meeting. Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who said he boycotted the meeting since he didn’t expect the New Jerseyan to step aside, said Menendez should be forced out.

Asked whether he might try to push for a resolution expelling Menendez from the Senate, Fetterman responded that “whatever kinds of procedure that could get rid of him, I’m all for forcing it.”

Menendez left through a back exit and would not answer when asked if he would cooperate with a Senate ethics investigation. He told reporters he looks forward to casting votes.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has said little since a Friday statement supporting Menendez’s right to serve while fighting the charges, did not comment to reporters as he left the meeting. He said Wednesday he would at some point say more after hearing what Menendez had to say.

Menendez’s political support collapsed after prosecutors charged he had received bribes of gold bars, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and a Mercedes convertible in return for official favors extended to three businessmen. The bribes allegedly began around the same time federal prosecutors dropped an earlier corruption case against Menendez in 2018 following a trial that ended with a hung jury.

His wife, Nadine, and the businessmen were also charged.

Menendez, 69, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Though he gave up the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee, more than half of Senate Democrats have called on him to quit.

Earlier: Senator Menendez Charged With Taking Bribes of Gold Bars, Cash

Menendez’s decision to stay in the Senate complicates Democrats’ strategy in next year’s elections to attack former President Donald Trump and his allies over his criminal indictments. 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and a few other Democrats called on him to step down hours after the criminal charges had been announced. By Tuesday morning, their voices were joined by a chorus of Senate Democrats, including Cory Booker, a close ally and his state’s junior senator, Gary Peters of Michigan, the leader of the party’s Senate campaign arm, and many endangered Senate Democrats who face tough re-election fights next year.

Fetterman said Democrats can’t afford the tarnish Menendez might bring to their effort to keep the Senate in 2024, when they will be defending seats in some GOP-heavy states like Montana and Ohio.

Fetterman said he’s concerned that New Jersey could now be in play for Republicans, if Menendez ends up on the ballot. He added that he finds Menendez’s defiance to be “remarkable.”

“I can’t imagine him marching in here and standing in front of people and saying, ‘Let me explain the gold in the mattress, and the cash and it’s an emergency’ kind of a thing,” he said. “It’s bizarre.”

If Menendez ran for reelection, he would likely face a bruising primary. Representative Andy Kim, a fellow New Jersey Democrat, said he’ll challenge Menendez. Other possible Democratic candidates include Representatives Mikie Sherrill and Josh Gottheimer.

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