Rep. Andy Kim was the second Democrat in Congress and the first one from New Jersey to call on Sen. Bob Menendez to resign after he was indicted on bribery charges for the second time, but the only lonesome voice in the debate is that of the bribe-taking politician’s son.
A 39-page indictment unsealed Friday accused Menendez of accepting thousands of dollars worth of bribes in exchange for using his power to influence a wide range of corrupt schemes at home and abroad.
The three-count indictment charged Menendez, a Democrat who leads the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, with sharing “highly sensitive” information about people assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and taking other steps that “secretly aided the Government of Egypt.”
In the wake of his indictment on federal corruption charges, a growing number of Democrats are calling for the resignation of New Jersey’s senior U.S. Senator.
Governor Phil Murphy, state Senate President Nicholas “No-Show Nick” Scutari, General Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, and State Democratic Chairman Leroy Jones have all called for Menendez to step down.
Several Democratic county chairs have also called for Menendez’s resignation, including Kevin McCabe of Middlesex County, Paul Juliano of Bergen County, Amalia Duarte of Morris County, David Brown of Monmouth County, John Currie of Passaic County, Mike Suleiman of Atlantic County, Peg Schaffer of Somerset County, and Arlene Quinones Perez of Hunterdon County.
In addition, several Democratic members of Congress have called for Menendez’s resignation, including Representatives Andy Kim, Mikie Sherrill, Bill Pascrell, Frank Pallone, and Donald Norcross.
Menendez has denied the charges and has said that he will not resign. His son, Congressman Robert Menendez, Jr. issued a statement that declared confidence in the lawmaker’s innocence.
“Those who believe in justice believe in innocence 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,” said Menendez. “This is the same record of success these very same leaders have lauded all along. It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere.”
A three-term senator who has held office at every level across New Jersey’s rough-and-tumble political landscape, Menendez vowed to fight the latest set of charges and questioned the veracity of the indictment.
In almost the same language he used in 2017, Menendez described the indictment as a political attack and promised to stay in the Senate.
“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” said Menendez. It was an echo from six years ago when he told “those who were digging my political grave” that he would remember who they were as if to threaten retribution.
Senator Cory Booker, who testified on behalf of his colleague in the 2017 bribery trial, has not publicly commented on the indictment but in the past, the junior lawmaker spoke highly of Menendez and called him a close friend and mentor.
In a 2017 interview with The New York Times, Booker said, “Bob Menendez is a giant of New Jersey politics. He’s been a champion for the people of this state for decades, and I’m proud to call him a friend and mentor.”
The calls for Menendez’s resignation come as Democrats are facing a difficult midterm election cycle. They are trying to maintain control of the House and Senate, but they are facing a number of challenges, including the high rate of inflation and the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Some Democrats believe that Menendez’s indictment will be a distraction for the party and that it will be difficult for him to effectively represent New Jersey in the Senate while facing these charges.
Others say Menendez should be allowed to defend himself in court.
“Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey. He has a right to due process and a fair trial,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who announced that Menendez is stepping “down temporarily from his position as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee until the matter has been resolved.”
Democrats who called for Menendez’s resignation following his latest indictment on federal corruption charges have been accused of hypocrisy for failing to demand his resignation and supporting him over his 2018 Democratic primary challenger Lisa McCormick, the last time he was charged with criminal misconduct in a 2015 indictment that was dismissed after an 11-week trial resulted in a hung jury and the Trump administration showed no interest in pursuing the matter.
“Corrupt politicians are holding Menendez to a different standard because he is a Democrat whether they are willing to overlook the alleged misdeeds of Republicans like Donald Trump or other Democrats like Hunter Biden,” said McCormick. “The latest charges against Menendez are similar to those in the indictment against him in 2015, and while the evidence against him now is particularly compelling, prosecutors botched a strong case during the Trump administration.”
“Senator Menendez has not fought for the people of New Jersey with much success over the past five decades, which is why we have a $32 trillion national debt, massive economic inequality, a political system that runs on bribery, a Supreme Court stacked to outlaw abortion, and other conditions that political scientists described as an ‘oligarchy’ so these new criminal charges are only the latest reasons for Americans to fire Bob Menendez,” said McCormick.
Although he has said that he will not do so, It is unclear whether Menendez will resign because the pressure on him is mounting. If he does resign, it would create a vacancy in the U.S. Senate that would be filled by the Governor.