Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, pleaded no contest Monday after being indicted. Bribery allegations last weekendHe said he hoped to be acquitted as he responded to certain specific charges and evidence outlined by prosecutors.
Menendez’s comments come amid a flurry of calls for his resignation — including from his own party and his Senate colleagues. On Monday afternoon, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown became the second Democratic senator to call on Menendez to step down, joining Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman.
In a statement to reporters, Menendez offered his first public defense against some of the evidence investigators found while searching his home. Including hundreds of thousands of dollars in cashHe argued that he had on hand for emergencies and described it as an “old” habit derived from his family’s experience in Cuba.
“For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars from my personal savings account that I kept for emergencies and because of my family’s history of confiscation in Cuba,” Menendez said. “Now this may sound old-fashioned, but these are payments from my personal savings account based on my legitimate earnings over those 30 years.”
According to the charge sheet, Federal agents raided Menendez’s home and safety deposit box in 2022 and found nearly $500,000 in cash, including envelopes inside jackets emblazoned with Menendez’s name. Prosecutors say some of the envelopes contained the fingerprints or DNA of someone with business contacts the senator is accused of taking bribes from.
Menendez is charged with three felonies. including being on the receiving end of a bribery conspiracy. The conspiracy counts also charge his wife and three other New Jersey associates and businessmen.
The group has been accused of consolidating Menendez’s power as a US senator to benefit themselves and Egypt.
On Monday, Menendez defended his record on Egypt, saying, “If you look at my actions related to Egypt during the period described in this indictment, and throughout my life, my record has been clear and consistent in holding Egypt accountable. The unjust detention of American citizens and others, its human rights abuses, its relationship with Russia.” Efforts that have undermined the independence of the country’s judiciary amid deep nexus and myriad concerns.
Sen. Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, speaks on September 25, 2023 in Union City.
Menendez joined a growing list of prominent Democrats — including New Jersey’s governor and six members of the state’s congressional delegation — to call for his resignation. Representative Andy Kim announced Saturday It plans to challenge Menendez in the Democratic primary Menendez is slated to run again for his U.S. Senate seat next year.
On Monday, Brown became the second Senate Democrat to call on Menendez to step down, joining Fetterman.
“Senator Menendez has broken the public trust and should resign from the United States Senate,” said Brown, who is running for re-election next year.
Fetterman, who first called for Menendez’s resignation over the weekend, will return $5,000 in donations to his campaign from Menendez’s political action committee, according to the Pennsylvania Democrat’s office.
The New Jersey senator has denied wrongdoing and pushed back against calls to resign.
On Monday, Menendez accused those who “rushed to judgment” of doing so out of “political expediency.” Several members of the New Jersey caucus of Congress have called on him to resign, and Rep. Andy Kim has announced he will run for Menendez’s seat.
“I recognize this is going to be the biggest fight yet,” Menendez said, referring to the upcoming legal battle. “But as I’ve said throughout this whole process, when all the facts are presented, I’m sure I’ll be acquitted, but I’ll still be the senior senator from New Jersey.”
This story has been updated with additional updates.