Senator Bob Menendez has temporarily stepped down as chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, but has refused to resign as Senator, despite a request from the Governor of New Jersey, the state that Mr. Menendez represents in the Senate. The potential resignation of the senator, who was indicted on bribery charges by a New York prosecutor, could complicate Democrats' efforts to retain a slim majority in the Senate.
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez will not resign, rejecting a request by Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
"The facts presented are so serious that they jeopardize Senator Menendez's ability to effectively represent the people of our state." said Governor Murphy, who has the right to choose an interim replacement if Mr. Menendez were to leave.
Mr. Murphy is not the only Democratic official to call on Senator Menendez to resign. However, in the first statement since the charges were filed by federal prosecutor Damian Williams in Manhattan, Senator Menendez made it clear that he will not step down as senator.
"I am aware of how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and remove him from his position. I'm not going anywhere." he said in a statement Friday evening.
However, according to Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, internal party rules require Mr. Menendez to temporarily step down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until the case against him is resolved.
On Friday, prosecutor Williams, while confirming the indictment against Mr. Menendez, his wife, Nadine, and three New Jersey businessmen, gave details of what was found in the US senator's home.
"FBI agents discovered approximately $500,000 stuffed in envelopes and lockers. Some of the money was found in the senator's jacket pockets. Fingerprints of one of the accused businessmen were found on some of the money envelopes. Agents also discovered a lot of gold given by businessmen Fred Daibes and Wael Hana. The FBI also found the Mercedes that the third accused businessman, Jose Uribe, gave them." explained Prosecutor Williams.
According to the Manhattan District Attorney's office, the senator and his wife are accused of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for using Mr. Menendez's power and influence as a senator to provide protection and favors to businessmen and the government. of Egypt.
News agencies have rushed to publish photos and videos from Mr Menendez's previous meetings with Egyptian officials, such as footage from the US Senator's meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry in Cairo on October 14, 2021.
The reason for this is that prosecutors said that businessman Wael Hana, originally from Egypt, has since 2018 organized dinners and meetings between Mr. Menendez and Egyptian officials, during which the officials urged Mr. Menendez to provide them with information on the aid issue United States military for Egypt.
In return, according to prosecutors, Mr. Hana put Nadine Menendez on his company's employee payroll.
"First, the indictment alleges that Senator Menendez used his power and influence, including his leadership role on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to benefit the government of Egypt in various ways. Among other actions, Senator Menendez allegedly provided Egyptian officials with sensitive, non-public U.S. government information and took steps to covertly assist the government of Egypt." said prosecutor Damian Williams, among other things.
Mr. Menendez, who is serving his third term, has said he plans to seek re-election next year.
The investigation could complicate Democrats' efforts to extend their slim two-vote majority over Republican opponents in the 100-member Senate.
The Cuban-born senator has been the fiercest Democratic opponent of President Biden's softening stance toward Cuba and Venezuela.
He has also been one of the most vocal critics in the Senate of Saudi Arabia and Prince Mohammed bin Salman, particularly over major arms deals for the kingdom./VOA