'This is horrifying': Top New Jersey Democrats call on Bob Menendez to resign after his second indictment - Living Strong Television Network
'This is horrifying': Top New Jersey Democrats call on Bob Menendez to resign after his second indictment

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Democratic leaders on Friday called on Sen. Bob Menendez to resign, hours after federal prosecutors indicted him on bribery charges.

“The allegations in the indictment against Senator Menendez and four other defendants are deeply disturbing. These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system,” Murphy said in a statement. “The alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation.”

The public statements by Murphy and state political leaders puts intense, possibly undeniable, pressure on New Jersey’s senior senator even after he struck a defiant tone in response to the allegations. Menendez is up for reelection in 2024 and had said before the charges that he would seek another term.

He remained resistant to his fellow Democrats’ calls Friday evening.

“Those who believe in justice believe in innocence until proven guilty. I intend to continue to fight for the people of New Jersey with the same success I’ve had for the past five decades,” Menendez said in a statement. “This is the same record of success these very same leaders have lauded all along. 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.”

The explosive indictment forced an urgent decision on New Jersey Democrats: Stick with a powerful senator who’s survived corruption ordeals before and is known for punishing disloyalty, or cut their losses and protect what should be a safe Democratic seat.

After a day of political agony, they landed on the latter.

Nearly eight hours of silence since federal prosecutors from Southern District of New York first announced they planned to indict Menendez, Murphy and several of the state’s top Democratic leaders issued statements calling for Menendez to resign.

Democratic State Committee Chair LeRoy Jones has also called an “urgent” meeting of county chairs at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, presumably to deal with the fallout.

The statements late Friday afternoon came after a meeting in Newark between Murphy and a small group of high-ranking Democratic leaders.

While Democrats stayed publicly silent most of the day, interviews with half a dozen well-placed Democratic operatives, advisers and staffers showed a party stunned by the level of alleged corruption and hard-pressed to imagine a scenario in which the party backed Menendez for another term.

The allegations involving Egyptian arms sales and the passing on of sensitive information to foreign sources in particular caught them off guard and have left them privately frustrated that a senator who already imperiled a safe seat in 2018 over corruption allegations would now put them in an even worse position.

Democrats figured there would be new developments in the Menendez investigation, but the charges are far more serious than any of them anticipated.

“This is not what happened a few years ago. The stuff in here is sickening. You couldn’t dream this up to be on an FX show — that’s how detailed it is,” said one top Democratic congressional staffer from the New Jersey delegation.

The staffer, like party insiders and leaders interviewed for this story, was granted anonymity earlier Friday when speaking about the fluid situation and Democratic support for the notoriously-vindictive Menendez, who after surviving a 2017 corruption trial vowed that he would not forget “those who were digging my political grave.”

The Democrats’ response starkly contrasts with the unified front of support last time Menendez was indicted. But the 2024 election is already taking shape and Democratic Party leaders do not want to see a New Jersey Senate seat flip to Republicans for the first time since 1972.

All 120 seats in the state Legislature are on the ballot this November, too, and Democrats are hoping to stave off even more losses after deflating Republican wins in 2021. Jones alluded to that in his call for Menendez to resign, saying it would “make sure that our party is able to keep its focus on the critical upcoming state legislative elections in November.”

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Democrat of Middlesex County, said the allegations against Menendez go “against everything we should believe as public servants.” He called on Menendez to step down immediately.

“We are given the public’s trust, and once that trust is broken, we cannot continue,” he said.

Menendez stepped down from his powerful role as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier Friday.

The indictment was initially met largely with silence. Within two hours of the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York announcing the indictment, just two New Jersey Democrats issued a statement of support of Menendez: the senator himself and his son, U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez.

Bob Menendez said prosecutors “misrepresented the normal work of Congressional offices” and alleged that “forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave” — echoing the defiant statement he made immediately following his mistrial.

His son did as well, saying he’s seen “countless detractors who refuse to believe a son of immigrants from Hudson County could rise to be one of one hundred and yet he’s constantly proven them wrong.”

Nevertheless, the near-public silence from New Jersey Democrats spoke volumes initially, and some within the party were getting frustrated.

“This is horrifying. And anyone who doesn’t think it’s disqualifying, that’s a problem,” one influential Democratic operative told POLITICO after federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York unsealed the indictment.

Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) was the first public official to call for Menedez’s resignation, saying he lost confidence in the senator and that “no one is above the law.” Murphy and others soon followed.

The new indictment alleges Menendez and his wife took bribes in exchange for favors for the Egyptian government and a company it awarded a monopoly on Halal meat exports and attempted interference in state and federal criminal cases, is at least on the surface far more damning and easy to understand than the 2015 indictment.

It claims, among many other things, that Menendez allegedly disclosed to a co-defendant Wael Hana at a dinner that a U.S. government ban on sales of small arms and ammunition to Egypt has been lifted, which Hana passed on to the Egyptian official. It also alleges the senator and his wife, Nadine Arslanian, did favors for foreign interests and criminal defendants in exchange for gold bars, cash and even a Mercedes-Benz.

Photos in the latest indictment show gold bars and nearly half a million dollars of cash, some of it stuffed into clothing that bore the senator’s name.

“This is crazy. This is cash in envelopes, the gold bars,” said one Democratic adviser with connections to a major party leader.

In 2015, Menendez was indicted for allegedly seeking to benefit the interests of Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, a close friend. In exchange, prosecutors alleged Melgen provided Menendez with political donations, lavish vacations in his Dominican villa and private jet flights.

The senator argued that he was doing favors for a friend — not in exchange for anything. The new indictment, on the other hand, features co-defendants who did not have the history of close friendship with Menendez, and numerous text messages from Menendez and his wife that prosecutors allege show evidence of bribery.

New Jersey Republicans didn’t hesitate to offer scathing criticism of the senator. GOP state legislative candidates in several competitive districts that are holding elections this November issued statements calling on Menendez to resign and asking their Democratic opponents to do the same.

Christine Serrano Glassner, a Republican small-town New Jersey mayor with ties to former President Donald Trump who launched her Senate campaign against Menendez on Monday, dubbed him “Gold Bar Bob.”

“The indictment of Sen. Menendez is a sad day for New Jersey, but not surprising. ‘Gold Bar Bob’ has been battling credible allegations of corruption throughout most of his time in office, all while being protected and enabled by his cronies and allies in Washington,” Serrano Glassner said in a statement.

Meanwhile, there have been signs of Menendez’s political vulnerability in recent years. In Menendez’s 2018 primary election, six months after his mistrial, Lisa McCormick, a little-known Democrat with no campaign funding or party support, won 38 percent of the vote against him. That was largely read as a protest vote against Menendez, who still managed to capitalize on anti-Trump sentiment to win a comfortable 11-point reelection in 2018. (Republicans haven’t won a U.S. Senate election in New Jersey since 1972.)

So far, only one Democratic candidate is challenging Menendez in the primary: Real estate lender Kyle Jasey, the son of a New Jersey state lawmaker. But there’s a deep bench of high-profile New Jersey Democrats who are running or positioning themselves to run for governor in 2025, including U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.), U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer(D-5th Dist.), Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. State Democratic bosses, notorious for backroom deals, could look to one of them to replace Menendez on the ballot.

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