Sen. About a third of all Democratic U.S. senators, including Cory Booker, said Tuesday that Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife called for his resignation after federal prosecutors accused him of accepting bribes from three New Jersey businessmen.
Booker and Menendez represent the state of New Jersey. Menendez, a Democrat, said Monday he will fight the charges while remaining in the Senate.
When the criminal charges emerged Friday, Mendente’s fellow Democrats in the Senate remained silent. But in the following days, 17 senators called for his resignation.
Democrats control the Senate by a narrow margin, with 51 seats, including three independents who generally vote with the party, to 49 Republicans.
“Resignation is not an admission of guilt, but an acknowledgment that holding public office often requires enormous sacrifices at personal expense,” Booker said in a statement. “I believe that it is best that Senator Menendez resigns for those he has served during his lifetime.”
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Menendez was entitled to a fair trial, but did not say whether he should remain in office or step down. The White House declined to say whether Menendez should resign.
Several Democratic elected officials in New Jersey, including Gov. Bill Murphy, have called for Menendez to step down. His Senate seat is also up for grabs in next year’s elections.
If the senator resigns, Murphy is expected to be an interim successor and is unlikely to change the balance of power in the Senate.
Still, Menendez’s legal troubles could complicate his party’s efforts to retain control of the Senate, even though New Jersey hasn’t elected a Republican to the seat since 1972.
U.S. prosecutors said Menendez accepted gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash for using his power and influence to help Egypt’s government and interfere with police investigations of businessmen.
If convicted, he and his wife, Nadine Menendez, could face up to 45 years in prison, though judges in these types of cases typically impose less than the maximum sentence.
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