Calls are growing for Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to step down as he and his wife are facing federal corruption charges.
On Tuesday, fellow New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (D) joined the list of lawmakers urging Menendez to resign.
In a lengthy statement, Cooker praised his colleague, saying, “For nearly a decade, I’ve worked in the Senate alongside Senator Menendez. As New Jersey’s junior Senator, I imagine that I’ve had more professional experiences with him than most others, and I’ve witnessed his extraordinary work and boundless work ethic.”
“I’ve consistently found Senator Menendez to be intellectually gifted, tough, passionate, and deeply empathic. We have developed a working relationship and a friendship that I value and believe has furthered our effectiveness in serving New Jersey,” he continued.
However, he stated the indictment against Menendez is “shocking” and it is “hard to reconcile” the allegations with “the person I know.”
Booker noted a jury would determine whether he is guilty, then added, “There is, however, another higher standard for public officials, one not of criminal law but of common ideals. As Senators, we operate in the public trust. That trust is essential to our ability to do our work and perform our duties for our constituents.”
Finally, he stated, “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.”
My statement on Senator Robert Menendez. pic.twitter.com/h7WY9EWwUz
— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) September 26, 2023
The statement comes days after Menendez was accused by federal prosecutors of accepting “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes between 2018 and 2022.
The situation is quite bizarre. The new indictment comes years after a jury was unable to come to a verdict in a separate corruption trial.
Menendez is innocent until proven guilty. And in one sense it appears almost inconceivable he would engage in a corruption scheme just months after a corruption trial. But politics is weird and politicians are not always the brightest and most honest people.
Still, it would also be quite brazen for federal prosecutors to again cook up corruption charges after they failed to secure a conviction.
Regardless, assuming the case goes to trial, we will eventually get to the truth of what is going on here.
But the politics cannot be clearer. In 2017, when Menendez was first on trial, New Jersey had a Republican governor and if he was forced out of the Senate, there was a good chance Democrats would lose the seat at least for a little while so he weathered those allegations.
Now, however, New Jersey has a Democratic governor and Menendez could be replaced by a Democrat. But if he stays, he risks being a drag on Democrats in the state in elections this year, and potentially in 2024 when he would be up for re-election.
Aside from the New Jersey elections, it makes it harder for Democrats to make the case former President Donald Trump and Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) should not hold public office because of their indictments if one of their own is facing federal corruption charges and defiantly running for re-election.
And so over a dozen Senate Democrats — including Booker who famously declared he was having an “I am Spartacus” moment during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s 2018 confirmation hearing — are throwing him under the bus and demanding his resignation before he has his day in court.
That’s not very Spartacus-like.
And it risks creating a dangerous precedent, if all it takes to force someone out of office is an indictment without a trial, what would prevent politically driven prosecutors from bringing frivolous indictments against lawmakers they do not like?
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