(The Center Square) — New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker on Tuesday joined a chorus of calls from top Democrats for Sen. Bob Menendez to resign after he was indicted last week on bribery and corruption charges.
In a statement, Booker called the allegations against Menendez, D-N.J., and his wife Nadine “shocking” and “disturbing” and said stepping down from “is best” for Menendez’s constituents.
“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 in a statement.
“Senator Menendez fiercely asserts his innocence and it is therefore understandable that he believes stepping down is patently unfair,” he added. “But I believe this is a mistake.”
On Friday, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York unsealed a 39-page indictment accusing Menendez and his wife of accepting “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes in exchange for using his political influence to benefit the Egyptian government and business associates in New Jersey.
Menendez and his wife received bribes including cash, gold, luxury vehicles and vacations, mortgage payments and other forms of compensation, prosecutors say. Federal agents said a search of his home found more than $480,000 in cash – some of it in envelopes stuffed into a jacket with his name on it – gold bars and a Mercedes Benz.
This is the second time Menendez has been indicted on allegations of bribery while a senator. In 2015, he was charged with illegally accepting favors from a Florida physician, including trips on a private jet, vacations to Paris and more than $700,000 in political contributions.
But unlike the previous allegations of bribery, when Democratic colleagues rushed to defend the longtime senator, his support is waning following the latest indictments.
Booker joins a group of 17 Democratic senators — including Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Jon Tester of Montana — who have publicly called on Menendez to step down.
Menendez is also facing calls to resign from other top Democrats including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who said in an interview that it would be a “good idea” if he stepped down.
On Monday, Menendez defended himself in public remarks and predicted that despite the charges he would be “exonerated” and retain his post as New Jersey’s senior senator.
Menendez is up for reelection in the 2024 elections when Democrats will be seeking to retain control of the Senate. In 2018, he was elected to a third term with 54% of the vote, according to New Jersey election results.
On Saturday, Rep. Andy Kim, a third-term Democrat from South Jersey, announced that he will challenge Menendez in next year’s Democratic primary.