Democrats Balk at Questions About Possible Menendez Conviction

November 14, 2017

Senate Democrats are not interested in talking about the fallout of the potential conviction of one of their colleagues in his corruption trial.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) is currently awaiting a jury's decision as they deliberate a dozen bribery and corruption charges related to what prosecutors say was an illicit relationship with his longtime friend Salomon Melgen.

Whether he's convicted is up to the jury. Whether he should be expelled from or step down from the Senate if that happens is not something Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez or Senate Democrats have wanted to discuss.

"We'll wait and see what happens. The jury has not spoken yet," Perez said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

Pressed again, he said, "Again, the jury has not spoken yet, so I don't like to answer what-if questions."

"We're going to leave this decision to the jury, and I'm not going to get ahead of the game," Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) said on "Fox News Sunday." "People on the jury will look at the facts, just like people in Alabama will have to look at the facts, and they'll have to render a decision. I'm not going to speculate about what the outcome of that jury decision will be."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) was also reticent to discuss the trial on "State of the Union" Sunday.

"I'm not going to get into the hypotheticals on either of these situations, as I said several steps removed," Durbin said, also referring to the Roy Moore sexual misconduct accusations. "I'm hopeful that when all is said and done that Bob Menendez will be returning to the Senate representing the state of New Jersey."

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) said Monday on MSNBC he also did not want to address "what-ifs."

"Well, I think that he will appeal if he's convicted, and I don't really want to do what-ifs about him, because I don't know what this jury is going to do," Brown said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) snapped at a reporter on Sept. 6 when asked if Democrats were going to stand by Menendez even if he was convicted.

"Look, Senator Menendez is issuing a spirited defense. We all believe in the presumption of innocence in this country," he said. "Senator Menendez is fighting very hard, and we respect that greatly."

In October, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said, "whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa" when Jake Tapper asked him about the hypothetical.

"I think in this country, people are entitled to due process. I'm not into speculating what if that will be Menendez' decision," Sanders said. "He has not been convicted. Let the process take its course ... I think it's a little bit premature to be talking about that."

In August, Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) said on "Morning Joe" he was "not going to go down that path" when asked about the implications of a possible Menendez conviction.

"This has been going on now for two-and-a-half years, so I think we're all pleased to see that hopefully this will come to an end," he said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) claimed she had no idea about Menendez's situation during a town hall in August, literally dropping her jaw when a constituent asked her about a "Plan B" if Menendez wasn't able to vote on critical legislation while away at his trial.

"I never played poker and there was a reason," Warren said, pointing at her face. "The answer is no, I don't have a Plan B, because actually I didn't know about this and I hope that this isn't right."