Democratic Senator Bob Menendez has pleaded not guilty to charges of accepting bribes from three businessmen in New Jersey. The charges accuse Menendez and his wife of accepting gold bars and cash in exchange for using his influence to aid Egypt’s government and interfere with law enforcement investigations. Menendez’s wife, as well as two of the businessmen, also pleaded not guilty. Menendez, who has previously been under investigation by federal prosecutors, has stepped down from his role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but has said he will stay in the Senate and fight the charges.
Calls for Menendez’s resignation from fellow Democrats have escalated since the charges were unveiled. More than half of all Democratic senators, including Senator Cory Booker and Senator Dick Durbin, have called on Menendez to step down. Democratic New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who would appoint a temporary replacement, has also called for Menendez’s resignation. Menendez’s indictment includes images of gold bars and cash seized from his home, and prosecutors claim that one of the businessmen arranged meetings between the senator and Egyptian officials in exchange for putting Menendez’s wife on his company’s payroll.
Menendez’s case will be overseen by U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein, and all defendants are set to appear before him on Monday. Democrats, who narrowly control the Senate, are facing pressure to distance themselves from Menendez, but the senator remains determined to fight the charges. This ongoing scandal could have implications for the Democratic control of the Senate and highlights the complex challenges of maintaining a united party front in the face of a high-profile corruption case.