Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has resisted calls for him to resign after he and his wife, Nadine, were indicted last week on bribery charges, repeatedly suggesting he is being targeted because of his heritage.
Menendez is accused of using his influence to protect and enrich three New Jersey associates and businessmen and of aiding Egypt’s authoritarian government in exchange for bribes in the form of cash, gold bars, payments toward his home mortgage and more.
“Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. senator and serve with honor and distinction,” Menendez, who is Cuban American, said in a statement shortly after the indictments were made public.
The senator stepped down as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but was steadfast in his refusal to resign.
“It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere,” he said in a separate statement late Friday.
This is Menendez’s second indictment in eight years. He was charged in 2015 with conspiracy, bribery and honest services fraud for allegedly using his political influence to assist his friend and major donor, Florida optometrist Dr. Salomon Melgen. A 2017 trial resulted in a deadlocked jury.
In a news conference Monday, Menendez once again made reference to his heritage to explain why federal agents found $100,000 in gold bars and $480,000 in cash in his home during a raid in June 2022 .
“For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba,” he said. “This may seem old-fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal savings account based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years.”
Menendez has faced mounting pressure to step down from members of his own party. In a Sunday interview with “Face the Nation,” New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez said, “It is in the best interest for Sen. Menendez to resign.
“As a Latina, there are absolutely ways, there is systemic bias, but I think what is here in this indictment is quite clear,” Ocasio Cortez added.
©2023 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.