Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey defiantly pushed back against federal corruption charges on Monday, saying cash authorities found in his home was from his savings account and was on hand for emergencies, it wasn't bribe proceeds.
He said he believed that he'd be exonerated and that prosecutors sometimes get the facts wrong.
“I recognize this will be the biggest fight yet, but as I have stated throughout this whole process, I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be the New Jersey’s senior senator," Menendez said at Hudson County Community College's campus in Union City, where he grew up. He did not respond to questions and did not address whether he will seek reelection next year.
Addressing allegations in the indictment unsealed Friday that authorities found cash stuffed in envelopes and clothing at his home, Menendez said the funds were draw from his personal savings account and stemmed his parents fear of confiscation of funds from their time in Cuba.
In Washington, where the U.S. Senate is closely divided, some of Menendez’s Democratic colleagues have stopped short of calling for his resignation, notably Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, and Majority Whip Dick Durbin, of Illinois.
Menendez has, however, stepped down as chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Schumer said on Friday, when the indictment was unsealed.
Menendez has denied any wrongdoing in the federal case against him, his wife and three of their business associates. In an emailed statement last week, he accused prosecutors of misrepresenting “the normal work of a congressional office” and said he will not allow his work in the Senate to be distracted by “baseless allegations.” A lawyer for his wife said she “denies any criminal conduct and will vigorously contest these charges in court.”
He and his wife, Nadine Menendez, are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold and a luxury car from a trio of New Jersey businessmen for a variety of corrupt acts.
The indictment said Menendez used his clout to interfere in three criminal cases, pressured U.S. agriculture regulators to protect an associate’s business interests, and used his position as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee to influence U.S. policy on Egypt.
Prosecutors say he met with Egyptian military and intelligence officials, passed along non-public information about employees at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and ghostwrote a letter on behalf of Egypt asking his Senate colleagues to release a hold on $300 million worth of aid.
Federal agents who searched his home in 2022 found more than $480,00 in cash stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets and a safe, and gold bars worth more than $100,000, prosecutors said. Another $70,000 was discovered inside his wife’s safety deposit box, they said.
The state’s Democratic leadership, including Gov. Phil Murphy, the state party chairmen and leaders of the Legislature, along with some of Menendez’s congressional colleagues, are calling on him to resign.