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New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez addresses indictment on federal bribery charges, record with Egypt

NJ Sen. Menendez speaks out after bribery indictment
NJ Sen. Menendez speaks out after bribery indictment 09:02

UNION CITY, N.J. (CBS) -- New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez spoke out Monday for the first time since being indicted on federal bribery charges, rejecting calls for his resignation. He addressed both the accusations, as well as his record with Egypt. 

"Our justice system is the principle that all people are presumed innocent until proven guilty -- all people," Menendez said. " I ask for nothing more and deserve nothing less."  

The Democrat held a press conference at 11:30 a.m. in Union City, Hudson County, where he started his political career. It comes as members of his own party are calling on him to step down. 

"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," the senator said. "To those who have rushed to judgment, you have done so on a limited set of factors, framed by the prosecution to be as salacious as possible. Remember, prosecutors get it wrong sometimes – sadly, I know that."

Federal prosecutors in New York alleged that Menendez and his wife, Nadine, accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from at least three New Jersey business associates and the government of Egypt.

RELATED: Prosecutors: Menendez, wife got gold bars, cash, Mercedes in "corrupt relationship"

Menendez also spoke on his record regarding Egypt. 

"If you look at my actions related to Egypt during the period described in this indictment – and throughout my whole career – my record is clear and consistent in holding Egypt accountable for its unjust attention of American citizens and others, its human rights abuses, its deepening relationship with Russia and efforts that have eroded the independence of the nation's judiciary – among a merit of concerns," Menendez said.

The indictment said federal agents found stacks of cash hidden throughout Menendez's home during a search last year. On Monday, the senator said he has withdrawn "thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings" over the last 30 years, "which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba."

"This may seem old-fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal saving account, based on the income that I had lawfully derived over those 30 years," he added.

Last week, the senator denied the allegations and resisted calls to resign, saying "I'm not going anywhere," however, he did step down temporarily as the chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as required under Senate Democratic Caucus rules.

"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.

"These are, in fact, indictments that have to be proven under the rule of law, a person who's accused is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and it's the responsibility of the government to prove that case," said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin. "I said that about Donald Trump, I'll say the same thing about Bob Menendez." 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is also on the growing list of leaders calling on the senator to resign.  

Menendez said in a statement the claims are false and he will not step down from Congress. He is expected to appear in court Wednesday. The businessmen who allegedly bribed him are also facing charges. 

"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. "For now, I remain focused on doing the important work I do every day on behalf of the 9 million people who call New Jersey home, including doing everything we can this week to avoid a government shutdown."

The senator from New Jersey has served since 2006 and is up for reelection in 2024. Over the weekend, Democratic Congressman Andy Kim announced he plans to challenge Menendez in the primary next year

New Jersey's former Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who is currently running for president, said on Sunday that he has "no interest" in running for the Senate seat in 2024.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York on Sunday joined the chorus of prominent Democratic lawmakers calling for Menendez's resignation. Calling the situation "quite unfortunate," Ocasio-Cortez said on "Face the Nation" that "it is in the best interest for Sen. Menendez to resign in this moment." 

Menendez was indicted in 2015 on roughly a dozen charges, including bribery and conspiracy, following accusations he accepted gifts from a wealthy Democratic donor in exchange for political favors. That case ended in a mistrial.  

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