Sen. Bob Menendez on Friday announced his support for Sen. Cory Booker's presidential bid, saying his fellow New Jersey senator is "what the Democratic party needs in its candidate and what the nation needs."
"Cory makes a great friend, and will make an even greater president," Menendez wrote on Twitter.
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I can't think of anyone better to represent and unite the American people. Cory makes a great friend, and will make an even greater president.
— Menendez for NJ (@BobMenendezNJ) February 1, 2019
Menendez's endorsement came hours after Booker, a former Rhodes Scholar and Stanford varsity athlete, released a video announcing his candidacy for president. In his announcement, Booker makes references to a country in need of "a sense of common purpose." He went on to explain that "in America, courage is contagious," and "no one gets left behind."
"He is someone who is willing to reach out to the other side but will fiercely fight on principle," Menendez told the New Jersey Globe. "I think [he’s] someone who can unite this nation is just what the Democratic party needs in its candidate and what the nation needs."
Menendez said he has watched Booker's rise in New Jersey politics, having served as a councilman and mayor in Newark before being elected senator, and observed Booker's ability to bring people together.
"[It’s] a time for healing and bringing people in our country together – not red, not blue, but red, white and blue as a nation," Menendez said.
The New Jersey senators have maintained a close relationship, and Booker defended his senior colleague during his corruption hearing in the fall of 2017. Menendez was accused of carrying out "official favors" for his friend and mega-donor, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, in exchange for private jet flights, vacations, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. Federal prosecutors alleged the senator started taking bribes from Melgen shortly after he entered the Senate in 2006.
During the trial, Booker came to Menendez's defense, calling him "honorable" and talking about his will to fight for his constituents.
"I don't care who you are in America – Italian, Irish, Korean, Black or Latina – you are not that far away from struggle, poverty, and hurt. Some of us forget where we come from. But what I think is honorable about Bob is … Bob has not forgotten where he comes from. He is someone who has known poverty and insecurity and what is honorable about him to me is that when I go home, and I am reminded of who I'm fighting for, I know Bob Menendez doesn't just have my back but has their backs," Booker testified.
In addition to serving as his character witness, Booker's PAC donated at least $20,000 to Menendez's legal defense fund.
The lengthy corruption trial ended in November 2017 after the jury was deadlocked on all charges, resulting in a mistrial. The Department of Justice was initially going to retry the corruption charges, but they decided not to. The Senate Ethics Committee, however, publicly admonished him for violating federal law by letting gifts go unreported.