Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of taking bribes from three New Jersey businessmen, as calls for his resignation from his fellow Democrats escalated.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan last week accused Menendez, 69, and his wife of accepting gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for the senator using his influence to aid Egypt's government and interfere with law enforcement investigations of the businessmen.
Menendez entered the plea at a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona Wang in Manhattan. Wang said Menendez could be released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond. The senator will be required to surrender his personal passport but may retain his official passport and travel abroad on official business.
His wife, Nadine Menendez, 56, and businessmen Jose Uribe, 56, and Fred Daibes, 66, also pleaded not guilty. A third businessman, Wael Hana, 40, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.
Menendez, one of two senators representing New Jersey, stepped down from his role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as required under his party's rules. But on Monday he said he would stay in the Senate and fight the charges.
More than half of all U.S. Democratic senators—including Cory Booker, the junior senator from New Jersey—have called on Menendez, a powerful voice on foreign policy who has at times bucked his own party, to resign since the charges were unveiled on Friday. Senator Dick Durbin (Ill.) on Wednesday joined fellow Senate Democrats urging Menendez to step down, saying on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he believed the senator could no longer serve.
Democrats narrowly control the Senate with 51 seats, including three independents who normally vote with them, to the Republicans' 49. Democratic New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, who would appoint a temporary replacement should Menendez step aside, has also called for him to resign.
The indictment contained images of gold bars and cash investigators seized from Menendez's home. Prosecutors say Hana arranged meetings between the senator and Egyptian officials—who pressed him to sign off on military aid—and in return put his wife on the payroll of a company he controlled.
The probe marks the third time Menendez has been under investigation by federal prosecutors. He has never been convicted.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen; additional reporting by Andrew Goudsward in Washington; editing by Scott Malone, Timothy Gardner, and Jonathan Oatis)
Published under: Bob Menendez