“Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost,” said one of New Jersey’s U.S. senators to the one facing federal corruption charges.
Sen. Cory Booker on Tuesday called on Sen. Bob Menendez, his fellow New Jersey Democrat in the U.S. Senate, to step aside in the face of a damning federal indictment on corruption charges issued last week.
“As Senator Menendez prepares to mount his legal defense, he has stated that he will not resign,” Booker said in a statement. “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 praised Menendez as a friend and trusted colleague, one with a “boundless work ethic” and who is “deeply empathetic.”
This is Menendez’s second indictment for corruption, with a first trial over charges brought in 2017 ending in a mistrial.
“It is not surprising to me that Senator Menendez is again determined to mount a vigorous defense,” Booker said Tuesday. “And I still believe he, like anyone involved with our criminal justice system, deserves our presumption of innocence until proven guilty. A jury of his peers will make the ultimate decision as to whether he is criminally guilty.
“There is, however, another higher standard for public officials, one not of criminal law but of common ideals,” he continued. “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.”
Booker now joins other Democratic in the upper chamber—including Sens. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D-Oh.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), John Tester (D-Mt.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.)—who have called on Menendez to resign.
On Monday, a defiant Menendez made his first public remarks about the indictment, in which he said the nearly $480,000 in cash and gold bars found in his house was from his own personal savings account over the years, all money he claimed was legitimately earned from his career as a politician and lawmaker.
He said he would not resign, though he acknowledged the legal battle ahead would be tough. Once the process was over, he vowed that “not only will I be exonerated, I will still be New Jersey’s senior senator.”
In his statement, 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.”
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