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Senate Democrats to Bob Menendez: Resign

A growing number of Senate Democrats are calling for the resignation of Sen. Bob Menendez, R-NJ, following his indictment on corruption charges.
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A growing number of Senate Democrats are calling for the resignation of Sen. Bob Menendez, R-NJ, following his indictment on corruption charges.

Updated September 26, 2023 at 11:49 AM ET

A growing number of Senate Democrats are calling for New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez to resign from Congress after he wasfederally indicted in a corruption scheme.

Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who serves alongside Menendez in representing New Jersey, joined the chorus of calls on Tuesday.

"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," Booker said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. "Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgement that holding public office demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost."

It is a major step for Booker, who works closely with Menendez, to call for his fellow senator to resign. His announcement is part of a flood of statements from Democrats.

"While he is entitled to the presumption of innocence, serving in public office is a privilege that demands a higher standard of conduct," said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., in a Tuesday statement calling for his resignation.

Other Senate Democrats issuing calls for Menendez to resign include: Jon Tester of Montana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Casey's fellow Pennsylvania senator, John Fetterman, was the first to call for Menendez to go following his indictment last week. So far, no Republican senator has called for his resignation.

Menendez and his wife Nadine were indicted last week in a federal court in New York on three charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion. The indictment alleges that Menendez and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. In return, Menendez allegedly used his position as a U.S. senator to help the businessmen by providing sensitive U.S. government information taking actions to aid the Egyptian government.

Senators return to Washington Tuesday, where they are likely to face a barrage of questions about Menendez's political future.

Menendez is also facing tremendous pressure at home in New Jersey to step aside. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy quickly called for his resignation, as have members of the House delegation including Rep. Andy Kim, who said he will challenge Menendez in the June 2024 Democratic primary if he does not leave Congress before then.

The mounting calls put pressure on party leadership, including President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, to take a position. So far, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has called it a "serious matter" but the president has not personally weighed in on resignation calls. In a statement last week, Schumer said Menendez "has a right to due process and a fair trial" and supported his decision to relinquish his post as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

For his part, Menendez has aggressively defended himself against what he has characterized as a politically motivated and racist prosecution against the first Latino senator to represent New Jersey in the Senate. In a press conference on Monday, Menendez said he would not resign but he did not commit to running for reelection. This is the second time the New Jersey Democrat has been indicted, but a separate 2015 corruption case ended in a mistrial in 2017 and the government opted not to retry him. At the time, then-Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid stood by Menendez.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.