UNION CITY, N.J. -- Embattled U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez spoke to the media on Monday morning in response to a federal corruption indictment .
The 39-page indictment unsealed Friday alleges that he shared "highly sensitive" information about the U.S. embassy in Cairo, sought to interfere in criminal prosecutions, and used his power and influence as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in exchange for bribes in the form of cash, gold bars, a Mercedes Benz, and even home mortgage payments.
Menendez was the mayor of Union City and then a congressman from Hudson County, before becoming a U.S. senator.
He held his press conference Monday at Hudson County Community College. His tone was defiant as he said he knows it's the biggest fight of his life. However, he said he does not plan on stepping down.
"I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey's senior senator," Menendez said.
Watch Sen. Menendez's full remarks
Menendez surrounded himself with constituents he said he helped over the years and professed his innocence.
The Democrat also lashed out against countless members of his own party, including Gov. Phil Murphy, who have .
"Instead of waiting for all the facts to be presented, others have rushed to judgment because they see a political opportunity for themselves or those around them," Menendez said.
South Jersey Congressman Andy Kim said on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, that, adding, "As a result, I feel compelled to run against him. Not something I expected to do, but NJ deserves better."
In Washington, John Fetterman of Pennsylvania is currently the only U.S. senator asking Menendez to step down.
New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
"I do believe that it is in the best interest for Sen. Menendez to resign," Ocasio-Cortez said.
"I've called on him, given the gravity of the charges, to step aside. I think right now -- given how we've got elections coming up, there's a lot of distractions obviously -- giving the senator time to defend himself, I think what's best is that he steps aside," New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer told CNN over the weekend.
Watch Christine Sloan's report
The feds have accused Menendez and his wife, Nadine, of taking more than $500,000 in bribes from three New Jersey businessmen, including gold bars and cash, and say some of the money seized from the couples' home was stuffed in Menendez's senate jacket.
The son of Cuban immigrants said the money isn't dirty.
"For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba," Menendez said.
In Union City's Cuban-American community, Menendez's explanation has been the topic of conversation.
"The part about the money I do understand because as a Cuban we are used to putting ... we don't trust the government. We came from a very dark place in Cuba under a terrible regime," one person said.
"When there was money in Cuba, people put them in jars, in pods. My father used to do," another said.
"It doesn't apply in this case because here there are so many banks and so many things to put the money in," another added.
The senator, who said he'll soon be back in D.C. to to do the peoples' work, also refuted claims he provided sensitive information to the government of Eygpt.
"My record is clear for holding [Egypt] accountable for its unjust detention of Americans and others, and its human rights abuses," Menendez said.
The senator would not take any questions. The government claims the cash had fingerprints of one of the businessmen charged.
Meanwhile, CBS New York reached out to New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, but he did not respond.
It's telling that in Hudson County, the Democratic political machine, from mayors to members of Congress people, have remained silent. CBS New York reached out to more than a dozen, including the Democratic committee chair, but not one has responded.
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