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Democrats up pressure on Sen. Bob Menendez to resign over bribery charges

Calls for Sen. Bob Menendez to resign intensified Sunday from within the New Jersey Democrat’s own party as other elected leaders said the federal bribery charges and accusations of public corruption were grounds to relinquish his office.

New York prosecutors say nearly a half-million dollars in cash, gold bars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a luxury car were among the gifts Mr. Menendez and his wife accepted from three New Jersey businessmen in exchange for information that would benefit both them personally and the Egyptian government.

Reps. Eric Swalwell of California, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Don Beyer of Virginia, along with former Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, joined the growing list Sunday of current and former elected Democrats pushing Mr. Menendez to resign.

“The situation is quite unfortunate, but I do believe that it is in the best interest for Sen. Menendez to resign in this moment,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said on the CBS News show “Face the Nation.”

“It shouldn’t matter whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat. The details in this indictment are extremely serious,” she said.

Mr. Swalwell also argued that the indictment refuted claims from Republicans that the Biden administration has weaponized the Justice Department to pursue political enemies.

SEE ALSO: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joins list of Democrats calling on Sen. Bob Menendez to resign

“He should [resign], and I think it’s important that we point out that, speaking of [Attorney General] Merrick Garland, that any idea that the Department of Justice is being weaponized to protect President Biden is just nonsense,” he said on MSNBC’s “Inside with Jen Psaki.”

“This just shows that the rule of law applies to everyone, whether it’s the former president, whether it’s the current president’s son or whether it’s a Democratic senator,” he added.

Several members of the New Jersey congressional delegation, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania and former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. are among the other Democrats who already had said before Sunday that Mr. Menendez should leave office ahead of seeking his fourth term next year.

The indictment and his refusal to resign prompted a swift primary challenge from Rep. Andy Kim.

However, Republican presidential candidate and ex-Gov. Chris Christie said Sunday he has “no interest” in running for the seat in his home seat.

Mr. Menendez canceled a previously scheduled public appearance Sunday — a Hispanic Heritage Month event in his home state.  

SEE ALSO: Ex-N.J. Gov. Chris Christie has ‘no interest’ in running for Senate amid indictment of Bob Menendez

The three-term senator remains steadfast in his refusal to step aside, claiming in a statement Friday that resignation calls were being fueled by anti-Hispanic sentiment. The Cuban-American lawmaker has at times been at odds with current and past presidential administrations on foreign policy matters.

“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,” Mr. Menendez said. “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.”

Under Senate rules, Mr. Menendez must step down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but remains on the panel.

The New Jersey Democrat faced similar bribery charges several years ago, but the trial ended with a hung jury. Prosecutors claim that during or shortly after that trial, the latest bribery scheme began.  

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, emphasized the seriousness of the accusations but declined to say Mr. Menendez should resign.

“That’s a decision to be made by Sen. Menendez and the people of New Jersey,” Mr. Durbin said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Prosecutors say Mr. Menendez engaged in a “corrupt” relationship from 2018 to 2022 with Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes, one of his fundraisers.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Menendez used his power and influence to benefit the trio and Egypt in exchange for cash, gold, a Mercedes convertible and a fraudulent no-show job for Mr. Hana’s wife.

The indictment includes an array of detailed evidence, including wads of cash stuffed in clothing and envelopes, DNA and fingerprints, gold bars, and a web search for “how much is one kilo of gold worth.”

Mr. Menendez accused prosecutors of having “misrepresented the normal work of a congressional office.”

The 69-year-old was indicted in 2015 on charges related to donor gifts from Salomon Melgen, but that trial ended with a hung jury. Mr. Menendez went on to win reelection in 2018.

— Alex Miller contributed to this report.

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𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆:
𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗠𝗖𝗔,
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