Gov. Phil Murphy (D), New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chair LeRoy Jones, U.S. Rep Mikie Sherrill (D-11), and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin are calling for the resignation of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) following his indictment.
“The allegations in the indictment against Senator Menendez and four other defendants are deeply disturbing. These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system,” Murphy said in a statement.
“Under our legal system, Senator Menendez and the other defendants have not been found guilty and will have the ability to present evidence disputing these charges, and we must respect the process. However, the alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation.”
Menendez, along with his wife Nadine, faces a three-count federal indictment for allegedly accepting corrupt payments from three New Jersey businessmen at least in part to help with business arrangements in Egypt.
The couple are each charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color and official right.
They are accused of having a “corrupt relationship” with New Jersey businessmen Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes. Those three are charged with the first two counts.
“The allegations contained in the indictment that was unsealed today, if they are proven to be true, are incredibly serious and raise many disturbing questions. Senator Menendez should be afforded the same presumption of innocence that the U.S. Constitution guarantees to all Americans,” added Jones.
“But in the interest of ensuring that New Jerseyans continue to be granted the federal representation that they deserve, and to make sure that our party is able to keep its focus on the critical upcoming state legislative elections in November, I believe that the best course of action is for Senator Menendez to resign so that he can focus his full attention on his legal defense.”
Sherrill, a potential to successor to Menendez, is the second U.S. House member to ask for him to step down after U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-3) – another possible U.S. Senate candidate.
“These are serious allegations against Senator Menendez and if proven true, there is no room for this kind of conduct in public service. Today is a sad day for New Jersey and I believe it’s in the best interest of our state that Senator Menendez resign,” she tweeted.
Coughlin, a lawyer by trade, agreed that the allegations were serious enough to merit an immediate vacating of the Senate seat.
“The charges laid out against Senator Menendez today go against everything we should believe as public servants. We are given the public’s trust, and once that trust is broken, we cannot continue,” he said.
“Though I know that this indictment is an accusation, not a conviction, and that the Senator has the right to defend himself from these charges, I believe Senator Menendez must immediately step down and allow New Jersey, and America, to move forward.”
Menendez was charged with bribery by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2015, accused of performing official favors for his friend and co-defendant Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, but that ended in a hung jury in late 2017.
While New Jersey’s senior senator has no plans to resign, he will be leaving his post as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Additionally, the latest development indicates that he would likely have to run off the line in the June Democratic primary in light of state party leaders saying they won’t support him again.
Nonetheless, in his own statement, he remained defiant.
“I have been falsely accused before because I refused to back down to the powers that be and the people of New Jersey were able to see through the smoke and mirrors and recognize I was innocent,” he said in part.
” … I remain focused on continuing this important work and will not be distracted by baseless allegations. They wrote these charges as they wanted; the facts are not as presented. Prosecutors did that the last time and look what a trial demonstrates.”
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damien Williams said this morning that the corruption probe into U.S. Senator Bob Menendez “is very much ongoing.”
In his second statement released today, Menendez reiterated that he won’t be stepping down.
“Those who believe in justice believe in innocent until proven guilty. I intend to continue to fight for the people of New Jersey with the same success I’ve had for the past five decades,” he began.
“This is the same record of success these very same leaders have lauded all along. It’s not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I’m not going anywhere.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated with an additional comment from U.S. Senator Bob Menendez.