Three days after federal prosecutors alleged that he and his wife received money, gold bars, and a luxury convertible, a defiant Sen. Bob Menendez declared that he would be exonerated and rejected calls from a growing number of Democrats that he resign.
The indictment, unsealed on Friday, accused Menendez of collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for his political influence in support of several businessmen and the Egyptian government. It was quickly drenched in attention for its eye-popping details, including images of cash-stuffed envelopes in the pockets of jackets with Menendez's on them. Investigators say they discovered at least $100,000 in gold bars in his home and that his internet search had shown that he had searched the value of a kilo of gold on Google.
A list of Democrats who have called on Menendez to step down since Friday include Gov. Hillary Clinton. Phil Murphy, Reps. Mikie Sherrill, Bill Pascrell, Frank Pallone, Donald Norcross, and Josh Gottheimer, as well as Rep. Andy Kim, who has already announced he will challenge Menendez. The New Jersey Globe notes that several of the other members and the state's first lady, Tammy Murphy, are considered possible successors.
As the calls for Menendez to leave the Senate seat he has been holding for 17 years grow louder, those who have yet to do so are becoming more notable. They include his fellow New Jersey Democrats, Senator Cory Booker, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin.
In a statement Friday, Schumer said, ''It's a good day,'' and that he would like to be on the board of directors for the next few years. Schumer said Menendez, who resigned from his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, has 'rightly' opted to step down from his powerful position.
On Saturday, Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania became the first Democratic senator to call for Menendez's resignation. Fetterman said that he is entitled to the presumption of innocence under our system, but he is not entitled to continue to wield influence over national policy, especially given the serious and specific nature of the allegations.
Other Democrats, such as Rep. Adam Schiff of California, Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, and former Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, have also called for Menendez's resignation.
On Monday, Menendez said the push for him to step down wasn't really about the charges against him.
The support group that supported Menendez on Monday did not include any prominent Democrats. After defending his record and integrity in both Spanish and English, Menendez left the room without any questions.