Menendez on Friday was charged with secretly aiding the authoritarian government of Egypt and trying to thwart the criminal prosecution of a friend in exchange for gold bars and cash. A corruption indictment accuses the senator of using his foreign affairs influence for personal gain.
After this, Menendez relinquished his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — but has still maintained his innocence and said he would not resign from Congress.
“The allegations leveled against me are just that: allegations. For anyone who has known me throughout my fifty years of public service, they know I have always fought for what is right,” Menendez said.
However, others feel differently, including some democrats, such as New Jersey’s governor. On Tuesday, fellow New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said Menendez should resign, and his decision not to do so was a mistake, in a statement that was still complimentary of his colleague.
“I’ve consistently found Sen. Menendez to be intellectually gifted, tough, passionate, and deeply empathic. We have developed a working relationship and a friendship that I value and believe has furthered our effectiveness in serving New Jersey,” Booker wrote.
While the “shocking” allegations are hard to “reconcile with the person I know,” Booker said as senators, they operate in the public trust — and as such, Menendez must resign.
“Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost,” Booker wrote. “Sen. Menendez has made these sacrifices in the past to serve. And in this case he must do so again. I believe stepping down is best for those Sen. Menendez has spent his life serving.”
Calls for Menendez’s resignation came from outside of New Jersey as well: Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin on Tuesday issued a statement saying the indictment spells out “deeply troubling allegations.”
“While Sen. Menendez enjoys the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and will have his day in court to defend himself, I believe it’s best for his constituents, the American people, and our national security for the Senator to step down,” the Democrat wrote.
Several lawmakers, include Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio and Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, from New York, noted the “public trust” someone in Menendez’s position had in their statements telling him to resign.
Democratic Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman made a mention of the controversy surrounding the Senate’s recently changed dress code in his statement.
“This week, I hope to see my colleagues fully address the alleged systemic corruption of Senator Menendez with the same vigor and velocity they brought to concerns about our dress code,” he wrote.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.