Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., announced Monday that he will remain in office despite pressure to resign after being indicted on corruption charges.
Menendez was defiant as he made his first public comments since the September 22 indictment. He spoke in Union Station, New Jersey, where he began his political career four decades ago. He did not answer questions from the press.
“Everything I have achieved, I have worked for, despite the naysayers and everyone who underestimated me,” he said. “I recognize that this will be the biggest fight yet. But as I have stated throughout this trial, I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be acquitted, but I will still have the New Jersey’s senior senator.”
Menendez and his wife Nadine are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for exercising his power to enrich three businessmen – Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daides – and benefit the Egyptian government. Those bribes included gold bars, a luxury convertible, mortgage payments and more, according to prosecutors.
Menendez has denied wrongdoing, saying Monday, “The allegations against me are just that: allegations.”
“A cornerstone of American democracy and our legal system is the principle that all people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. All the people. I asked for nothing more and deserved nothing less,” the senator added.
Menendez also defended his long-standing record of defending human rights in Egypt in response to allegations in the indictment that he provided sensitive U.S. government information “that secretly aided the government of Egypt” and a U.S. agricultural official had ‘wrongly advised and pressured’ to protect an exclusive property right. According to the indictment, Hana signed a contract to become the exclusive supplier of halal meat to Egypt.
He also appeared to address the shocking photos of stacks of cash shown in the indictment. He explained it as an “old-fashioned” security mechanism after the persecution of his family in Cuba.
“For thirty years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies and because of my family’s history of being seized in Cuba,” Menendez said. “These were funds taken from my personal savings account based on the income I lawfully obtained over those thirty years. I look forward to addressing other issues at trial.”
Senator Robert Menendez makes comments after he and his wife Nadine Menendez were indicted on bribery crimes on September 25, 2023, in Union City, NJ, in connection with their corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen.
Menendez has temporarily stepped down from his influential position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced last week. Senate Democratic caucus rules stipulate that any member accused of a crime must leave any leadership position.
But state leadership is calling on Menendez to leave Congress altogether.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and most of New Jersey’s Democratic House delegation have urged him to resign. Murphy called the allegations “deeply troubling” and “so serious that they jeopardize Senator Menendez’s ability to effectively represent the people of our state.”
Menendez, who has served in the Senate since 2006, is up for re-election next year. Menendez has not yet said whether he will seek another term in 2024. He ignored a loud question from a reporter about whether he would do so at the end of his remarks.
U.S. Rep. Andy Kim — a fellow Democrat from New Jersey — announced this weekend that he will now run for his seat.
“After calls to resign, Senator Menendez said, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’ As a result, I feel compelled to take action against him,” Kim wrote in a social media post. “Not something I expected, but NJ deserves better. We cannot compromise the Senate or compromise our integrity.”
Although Menendez did not specifically name a politician in his comments, he appeared to take a stab at those who used the charge to launch political campaigns.
“Remember, sometimes prosecutors are wrong. Unfortunately, I know that,” Menendez said. “Rather than wait for all the facts to be presented, others have rushed to seize the opportunity for themselves or those around them.”
It is the second time that Menendez has been accused of corruption. A 2015 indictment ended in a mistrial in 2018 after a jury failed to reach a verdict on all counts and a judge acquitted him on some charges.