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Sen. Cory Booker calls on Menendez to resign, joining growing list of Senate Democrats

Sen. Bob Menendez rejects calls to resign
Sen. Bob Menendez says he will not resign after he was indicted on bribery charges 02:26

Washington — Sen. Cory Booker called for fellow New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez to resign from the Senate on Tuesday, joining a growing list of Democrats in the upper chamber who have called on him to step down after his indictment on federal bribery charges. Menendez is expected to address Senate Democrats on Thursday, after pleading not guilty in federal court Wednesday. 

In a statement noting his close working relationship and friendship with Menendez, Booker said the allegations in last week's indictment were "hard to reconcile with the person I know." Nonetheless, he said senators "operate in the public trust," which he called "essential to our ability to do our work and perform our duties for our constituents."

"As Senator Menendez prepares to mount his legal defense, he has stated that he will not resign. Senator Menendez fiercely asserts his innocence and it is therefore understandable that he believes stepping down is patently unfair. But I believe this is a mistake," Booker said. "Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost. Senator Menendez has made these sacrifices in the past to serve. And in this case he must do so again. I believe stepping down is best for those Senator Menendez has spent his life serving."

Sen. Cory Booker talks with Sen. Bob Menendez before a hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on July 30, 2014.
Sen. Cory Booker talks with Sen. Bob Menendez before a hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on July 30, 2014. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Menendez and his wife are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes in exchange for using the senator's power and influence to enrich and protect three New Jersey businessmen and benefit Egypt's government. He has vigorously denied the charges, and rebuffed calls for his resignation in his first public comments on the case on Monday.

Who else has called for Menendez's resignation?

Booker joined nearly a dozen other Senate Democrats who had already called for Menendez to step aside on Tuesday, when the dam appeared to break in the upper chamber. Just one Democratic senator, John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, had called for his resignation over the weekend.

As of Wednesday morning, the Democratic senators who have said Menendez should resign include:

  1. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin
  2. Michael Bennet of Colorado
  3. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut
  4. Cory Booker of New Jersey
  5. Sherrod Brown of Ohio
  6. Maria Cantwell of Washington
  7. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania
  8. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois 
  9. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania
  10. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
  11. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire
  12. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico
  13. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii
  14. Mark Kelly of Arizona
  15. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
  16. Ed Markey of Massachusetts
  17. Patty Murray of Washington
  18. Gary Peters of Michigan
  19. Jacky Rosen of Nevada
  20. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (an independent who caucuses with the Democrats)
  21. Jon Tester of Montana
  22. Raphael Warnock of Georgia
  23. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
  24. Peter Welch of Vermont

In the immediate wake of the unsealing of the indictment last Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York urged caution, calling Menendez "a dedicated public servant" who "has a right to due process and a fair trial." On Wednesday, Schumer called the details in the indictment "disturbing," and said the alleged conduct fell below what's expected of a senator. But Schumer did not call for Menendez' resignation. 

"Tomorrow, he will address our caucus, and we'll see what will happen after that," Schumer said Wednesday.

Maryland's Sen. Ben Cardin said the legal process should be allowed to "move forward without prejudice."

The tide began to shift with Fetterman's statement on Saturday. "Senator Menendez should resign. He's entitled to the presumption of innocence under our system, but he is not entitled to continue to wield influence over national policy, especially given the serious and specific nature of the allegations," the freshman Democrat said. "I hope he chooses an honorable exit and focuses on his trial."

Brown, of Ohio, echoed that call in a short statement Monday, hours after Menendez delivered his statement in New Jersey. "Senator Menendez has broken the public trust and should resign from the U.S. Senate," Brown said.

It took until Tuesday for more Democratic senators to demand Menendez step aside. Several of the senators who have now spoken out are up for reelection in 2024.

Most Republicans have been curiously silent. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas was one of the few to comment on the case, and notably defended Menendez.

"The charges against Senator Menendez are serious and troubling. At the same time, the Department of Justice has a troubling record of failure and corruption in cases against public figures, from Ted Stevens to Bob McDonnell to Donald Trump to Bob Menendez the last time around," Cotton said, a reference to an earlier case against Menendez that ended in a mistrial in 2017.

Jack Turman, Alan He and Daniel Hollingworth contributed reporting.

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