Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) will face a federal judge for the first time Wednesday to answer bribery charges as a swelling chorus of Democratic senators voice their demands for his resignation.
The charges relate to allegations he used his powerful post to secretly advance Egyptian interests and do favors for three New Jersey businessmen, as Breitbart News reported.
Specifically, Federal prosecutors in Manhattan last week accused Menendez, 69, and his wife of accepting gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for the senator using his influence to aid Egypt’s government and interfere with law enforcement probes of the businessmen.
A defiant Menendez — who was forced to step down as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee after the indictment was brought last week — says allegations he abused his power to line his own pockets are baseless and he refuses to resign.
New Jersey’s senior third-term senator pointed to his heritage as a Latino American as a driver behind the alleged “campaign” against him and has called the prosecution’s accusations “baseless”
He has said he’s confident he will be exonerated and has no intention of leaving the Senate, AP reports.
The probe marks the third time Menendez has been under investigation by federal prosecutors. He has never been convicted. His last trial involving different allegations ended with jurors failing to reach a verdict in 2017.
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Fellow New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker on Tuesday joined the calls for Menendez to resign, saying in a statement the indictment contains ”shocking allegations of corruption and specific, disturbing details of wrongdoing.”
Around half of Senate Democrats have now said that Menendez should step down, including several running for reelection next year, as they fear for their own reputations and that of the party in the wake of the growing scandal.
Democrats narrowly control the chamber with 51 seats, including three independents who normally vote with them, to the Republican’s 49. Democratic New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who would appoint a temporary replacement should Menendez step aside, has also called for him to resign.
Also set to be arraigned Wednesday is Menendez’s wife, Nadine, who prosecutors allege played a key role in collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes from three New Jersey businessmen seeking help from the powerful lawmaker.
An attorney for Nadine Menendez has said she also denies the allegations and will fight the charges.
Menendez’s first court appearance will begin before U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, at 10:30 a.m. ET.
UPDATE: Menendez and his wife pleaded not guilty to all charges.