Sen. Cory Booker called Tuesday for his home state colleague Sen. Bob Menendez to resign, joining a growing chorus of Democrats in New Jersey and in the Senate who have said Menendez should step down in the face of a federal criminal indictment.
“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,” Booker said in a statement.
“Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost,” he added. “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.”
Booker, a close ally of Menendez who stood firmly by him after a separate 2015 indictment, said Menendez “deserves our presumption of innocence until proven guilty.” Booker said it was hard to reconcile the person he knows with the charges alleged in the indictment.
But he suggested that Menendez could find it hard to work effectively in the Senate under the indictment.
“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.
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen, Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who all face tough reelection bids next year, called for Menendez to step down on Tuesday, as did Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly. They joined Sens. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Peter Welch of Vermont who had previously said he should step down.
Booker’s statement Tuesday comes after days of silence following the indictment Friday of Menendez, his wife Nadine, and three New Jersey businessmen. Menendez and his wife are accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold, a Mercedes-Benz and a job for his wife in exchange for protecting and enriching the businessmen and to benefit the Egyptian government.
Booker and other New Jersey Democrats stood by Menendez after he was indicted on unrelated bribery charges in 2015 in a case that did not lead to a conviction in a trial in 2017. Menendez was admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee but won reelection in 2018.
This case, however, has led to calls for his resignation from the state’s governor and many Democratic members of the House delegation. The only Democratic House incumbent to affirmatively stand by him is his son, Rep. Rob Menendez, who last year won the seat his father once held in the House.
Sen. Menendez said Monday he plans to be in Washington this week. In a statement to reporters, he said he expected to be exonerated after a trial and that he expected to remain the state’s senior senator.