Sen. Booker calls on fellow New Jersey Democrat Sen. Menendez to resign amid charges

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker is calling on fellow New Jersey Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez to resign on Tuesday.

Booker has faced criticism for his silence since the indictment was handed up Friday. He released a lengthy statement after Menendez spoke out publicly for the first time Monday.

Menendez, former chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his wife Nadine were indicted on Friday, accused of using his position to aid the authoritarian government of Egypt and to pressure federal prosecutors to drop a case against a friend. The three-count indictment says they were paid bribes – gold bars, a luxury car and cash – by three New Jersey businessmen in exchange for corrupt acts.

Booker, who serves as New Jersey’s junior senator, said he has worked alongside Menendez for nearly a decade and said he has witnessed his extraordinary work and work ethic, but is calling on his resignation due to “shocking allegations of corruption.”

“I’ve found the allegations hard to reconcile with the person I know,” Booker went on to say. “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.

Menendez gave an explanation for the large amounts of cash federal investigators said they found stuffed in jacket pocket as his New Jersey home. He did not however address the gold bars or gifted luxury vehicle.

“I recognize this will be the biggest fight yet, but as I have stated throughout this whole process, I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey’s senior senator,” Menendez said on Monday at Hudson County Community College’s campus in Union City, where he grew up.

However, Booker said that public officials are held to a higher standard of common ideals and senators operate in the public trust — which is essential to their ability to do work and perform their duties.

“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.

Booker says that even though Menendez is maintaining his innocence, he believes stepping down is not an admission of guilty, but “an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost.”

Booker’s statement came as a growing number of Democratic senators — at least 11 so far — are calling for the three-term senator to step aside. He has firmly rejected that idea.

Gov. Phil Murphy immediately called for Menendez’s resignation when the details were released.

If Menendez does in fact step down, Murphy would be the one to appoint someone to fill his term. And there has already been discussion about Murphys’ wife Tammy possibly running for Senate.

Rep. Andy Kim is already challenging Menendez in the primary. Other members of the state’s congressional delegation have also been mentioned as possible candidates, but none have thrown their hat in the ring.

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