US Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey has pleaded not guilty to federal charges accusing him of pocketing bribes of cash and gold bars in exchange for wielding his political influence to secretly advance Egyptian interests and do favors for local businessmen.
Menendez’s wife also pleads not guilty in the case during a brief hearing in a lower Manhattan federal courthouse days after prosecutors unsealed an indictment alleging vast corruption by the Democrat.
The senator is ordered released on a $100,000 bond, and he must surrender any personal passports but will be allowed to keep an official passport that would allow him to travel outside the US for government business. The judge orders him not to have any contact with his co-defendants except for his wife. He also can’t have contact with Senate staffers who know about the facts of the case outside of the presence of lawyers.
A defiant Menendez has said allegations that he abused his power to line his pockets are baseless. He has said he is confident he will be exonerated and has no intention of leaving the Senate.
Calls for Menendez to resign are continuing to mount, with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, saying “he should step down.”
More than half of Senate Democrats have now said that Menendez should resign, including fellow New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who said the indictment includes “shocking allegations of corruption and specific, disturbing details of wrongdoing.”