A growing number of Senator Bob Menendez’s Democratic colleagues are calling on him to resign from office after being indicted for conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, including his seatmate, New Jersey’s Cory Booker.
Menendez was indicted on those three charges last week in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) by the Department of Justice, represented by United States Attorney Damian Williams, obligating Menendez to surrender the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as Senate Democratic caucus rules require. His wife and other co-conspirators are also facing charges.
The indictment alleges:
ROBERT MENENDEZ, the defendant, is the senior U.S. Senator from the State of New Jersey. From at least 2018 up to and including in or about 2022, MENENDEZ and his wife, NADINE MENENDEZ, a/k/a Nadine Arslanian the defendant, engaged in a corrupt relationship with three New Jersey associates and businessmen — WAEL HANA, a/k/a Will Hana JOSE URIBE, and FRED DAIBES, the defendants — in which MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ agreed to and did accept hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for using MENENDEZ’s power and influence as a Senator to seek to protect and enrich HANA, URIBE, and DAIBES and to benefit the Arab Republic of Egypt. Those bribes included cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle, and other things of value.
Menendez has responded defiantly, asserting that he did nothing wrong, but not actually refuting any of the charges. Initially, he declared that unnamed persons and entities were targeting him; within the past forty-eight hours, he has tried to explain why federal authorities found over $480,000 in cash in his home, incredulously arguing that he withdrew large sums out of his savings.
“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” Menendez said in a statement about the indictment, which interestingly has not been posted to his Senate website, nor shared on social platforms. “Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”
He went on to say: “I have been falsely accused before because I refused to back down to the powers that be and the people of New Jersey were able to see through the smoke and mirrors and recognize I was innocent.”
It’s odd that Menendez is complaining about “innuendos” and an “air of impropriety” given that he is no longer facing rumors, but an actual indictment. The charges are serious, and while he does enjoy the presumption of innocence, the nature of the charges makes it impossible for him to faithfully and effectively serve the people of New Jersey as a United States Senator.
It’s important to note that a few years ago, the United States Supreme Court made it much more difficult to convict a public official of bribery. The Department of Justice has gone after Menendez before, and wasn’t able to land a conviction. It’s unlikely prosecutors would be trying again unless they felt their evidence was very compelling and very strong. As Matt Ford wrote for The New Republic:
“Corruption, in the justices’ eyes, is when a railroad tycoon hands a politician a burlap sack with a big dollar sign on it. But that extraordinarily high hurdle allegedly didn’t stop New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez from leaping over it.”
“Prosecutors went to great lengths this time not only to show how specific gifts and goods were tied to specific favors — Nadine Menendez’s persistence in texting her associates for payment helped tremendously here—but also to show how Menendez used the formal and semiformal powers of his elected position to carry out the scheme,” Ford added later in his column, citing the indictment.
Menendez might feel that since he survived the last round, he can do so again. But other Democrats aren’t betting on him (nor should they). The calls for his resignation are growing, and they are coming from a lot of key figures: Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey, New Jersey Democratic Party Chair LeRoy Jones, and United States Representative Andy Kim of New Jersey, who bravely decided to be the change and run against Menendez in the 2024 Democratic primary.
United States Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who often speaks succinctly and with great moral clarity, quickly became the first Senator to call for Menendez to step down. He has now been joined by most of the Senate Democratic caucus, including Senators Booker, Murray, and Cantwell.
For nearly a decade, I’ve worked in the Senate alongside Senator Menendez. As New Jersey’s junior Senator, I imagine that I’ve had more professional experiences with him than most others, and I’ve witnessed his extraordinary work and boundless work ethic.
I’ve consistently found Senator 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.
Senator Menendez is again facing a federal indictment, one that contains shocking allegations of corruption and specific, disturbing details of wrongdoing. I’ve found the allegations hard to reconcile with the person I know.
It is not surprising to me that Senator Menendez is again determined to mount a vigorous defense. And I still believe he, like anyone involved with our criminal justice system, deserves our presumption of innocence until proven guilty. A jury of his peers will make the ultimate decision as to whether he is criminally guilty.
There is, however, another higher standard for public officials, one not of criminal law but of common ideals. As Senators, we operate in the public trust. That trust is essential to our ability to do our work and perform our duties for our constituents.
The details of the allegations against Senator Menendez are of such a nature that the faith and trust of New Jerseyans as well as those he must work with in order to be effective have been shaken to the core.
As Senator Menendez prepares to mount his legal defense, he has stated that he will not resign. Senator Menendez fiercely asserts his innocence and it is therefore understandable that he believes stepping down is patently unfair. But I believe this is a mistake.
Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost. Senator 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 Senator Menendez has spent his life serving.
The charges against Senator Menendez are extremely serious and the details released are deeply disturbing — while Senator Menendez is entitled to his day in court, I believe he should step down and focus on his legal defense. If Senator Menendez refuses to resign, I encourage the Senate Ethics Committee to open an investigation into this, separate from the ongoing criminal case.
I found the allegations made in the indictment shocking and disturbing. While everyone deserves their day in court, constituents and the Senate deserve the full attention of their elected Senator. I don’t believe anyone under such a damning indictment can effectively serve, and I urge Senator Menendez to step aside.
We at the Northwest Progressive Institute strongly agree that Bob Menendez should resign from the United States Senate without any further delay.
Menendez only reinforced our grave concerns about his conduct and lack of ability to serve with his response, especially this line: “It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat.”
His seat, Mendendez said, referring to himself in the third person.
Senator Menendez, no one is entitled to a Senate seat — they are positions of public responsibility decided on by voters, not personal possessions or family heirlooms. As an elected official entrusted with a lot of power, you have an obligation to behave ethically and appropriately at all times.
True leaders are role models. They don’t use their positions to enrich themselves.
You’ve forfeited the trust of your constituents and your colleagues through your alleged actions. Regardless of whether these serious charges are proven in court or not, their existence makes it impossible for you to effectively represent the people of the Garden State. Please do the right thing for yourself, New Jersey, and the country, and resign from office immediately.