This Time, Senator May Not Survive His Bribery Scandal

Democrat Robert Menendez now has a primary challenger, and Fetterman says he should resign
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 24, 2023 6:59 AM CDT
This Time, Senator May Not Survive His Bribery Scandal
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., then chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, speaks during a hearing in March 2023.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey announced on Saturday that he will run against Sen. Robert Menendez in the state's Democratic primary for Senate next year, saying he feels compelled to run against the three-term senator after he and his wife were indicted on sweeping corruption charges. Kim's surprise announcement comes as a growing number of Democrats are calling for Menendez to step down. Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman became the first Democratic senator to do so, and several members of New Jersey's congressional delegation, along with the state's Democratic governor, have said he should resign, per the AP.

"This is not something I expected to do, but I believe New Jersey deserves better," Kim said. Fetterman, meanwhile, said his Senate colleague is "entitled to the presumption of innocence under our system, but he is not entitled to continue to wield influence over national policy." Menendez and wife Nadine were indicted on Friday for using his position to aid the authoritarian government of Egypt and also to pressure federal prosecutors to drop a case against a friend. The three-count indictment lists a series of bribes they were paid by three New Jersey businessmen in exchange for the corrupt acts—gold bars, a luxury car, and cash.

It is the second indictment on bribery charges for Menendez—and the second time he has had to relinquish his post as the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel. He regained the leadership spot in 2018 after the case ended with a deadlocked jury. Menendez was defiant after Friday's indictment, saying in a statement Friday evening that "I am not going anywhere." Authorities who searched Menendez's home last year found more than $100,000 worth of gold bars, as well as over $480,000 in cash—much of it hidden in closets, clothing, and a safe, prosecutors say. The indictment includes photos of cash stuffed in envelopes in jackets bearing Menendez's name and of a luxury car that prosecutors say was given to the couple as a bribe from the businessmen.

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Prosecutors say Menendez directly interfered in criminal investigations, including by pushing to install a federal prosecutor in New Jersey he believed could be influenced in a criminal case against a businessman and associate of the senator. He also tried to use his position of power to try to meddle in a separate criminal investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General's office, the indictment says. Other accusations include repeated actions by Menendez to benefit Egypt despite US government misgivings over the country's human rights record that in recent years have prompted Congress to attach restrictions on aid.

(Read more Senate Democrats stories.)

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