Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said Monday that he has no plans to step down and maintained that he will be exonerated on federal bribery charges.
Menendez remained defiant in his first public remarks since his federal indictment Friday.
He told supporters and media that Democrats in New Jersey are making a mistake by calling on him to resign and that he fully expects to remain in the upper chamber for years to come.
“The allegations leveled against me are just that: allegations,” Menendez told the crowd in Union City, N.J. “I recognized that this will be the biggest fight yet. But as I have stated through this whole process, I firmly believe that when all of the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I will still be New Jersey’s senior senator.”
Menendez said those calling for him to step down are doing so for purposes of “political expediency” and that those people have done so “on a limited set of facts” that were framed “to be as salacious as possible.”
“For now, I remain focused on continuing to do the important work I do every day on behalf of the 9 million people who call New Jersey home,” Menendez said, pointing to the push to fund the government and pass aid for disaster relief and Ukraine. “I’ll return to Washington this week to do exactly that.”
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York unveiled charges last week against Menendez and his wife, Nadine, accusing them of accepting “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes in exchange for using the senator’s “power and influence” to enrich a trio of New Jersey businessmen.
Federal agents seized more than $480,000 in cash stuffed in envelopes and hidden in clothing and closets, as well as two 1-kilogram gold bars and nine 1-ounce gold bars when they raided his home in June 2022.
Menendez has since faced calls to resign from Democrats, including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), multiple members of Congress from New Jersey and Democratic leadership in Trenton.
Senate Democratic leadership, however, hasn’t joined those calls.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday that Menendez “rightly” stepped down from his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until the charges are resolved, but declined to go any further.
However, they acknowledge that Menendez faces a situation of peril.
“This is a very serious charge. There’s no question about it,” Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told CNN on Sunday. “These are, in fact, indictments that have to be proven. Under the rule of law, a person who is accused is entitled to the presumption of innocence. And it’s the responsibility of the government to prove that case.”
Menendez on Monday did not address is whether he will seek a fourth term next year. He did not take questions after his remarks.
“I can tell you that it’s a significant event, clearly it is. And whether or not he will run for reelection remains to be seen,” Durbin said about a potential Menendez reelection bid during the interview.
This is the second time federal prosecutors have charged Menendez. He faced corruption charges in 2015 that were ultimately dropped in 2018.
Menendez subsequently reassumed his role as chairman of the Foreign Relations panel and won reelection that fall.
“Remember, prosecutors get it wrong sometimes. Sadly, I know that. Instead of waiting for all the facts to be presented, others have rushed to judgment, because they see a political opportunity for themselves or those around them,” Menendez said. “All I humbly ask for in this moment … is to pause and to allow all the facts to be presented.”
Updated at 12:25 p.m. ET