(UNION CITY, N.J.) — Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., signaled Monday that he will remain in office despite pressure to resign after being indicted on corruption charges.
Menendez was defiant as he delivered his first public remarks since the Sept. 22 indictment. He spoke in Union Station, New Jersey, where he started his political career four decades ago. He didn’t take any questions from the press.
“Everything I’ve accomplished I’ve worked for despite the naysayers and everyone who has underestimated me,” he said. “I recognize this will be the biggest fight yet. But as I have stated throughout this whole process, 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 and his wife, Nadine, are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for wielding his power to enrich three businessmen — Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daides — and benefit the Egyptian government. Those bribes, according to prosecutors, included gold bars, a luxury convertible car, home mortgage payments and more.
Menendez has denied wrongdoing, stating Monday, “The allegations leveled against me are just that: allegations.”
“A cornerstone of the foundation of American democracy and our justice system is the principle that all people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. All people. I asked for nothing more and deserve nothing less,” the senator added.
Menendez also defended his longstanding record of defending human rights in Egypt in response to allegations in the indictment that he gave sensitive U.S. government information “that secretly aided the Government of Egypt ” and “improperly advised and pressured” a U.S. agricultural official to protect an exclusive contract for Hana to be the exclusive purveyor of halal meat to Egypt, according to the indictment.
He also seemed to address the shocking photos of piles of cash that were seen in the indictment. He explained it as an “old fashioned” safety mechanism following persecution of his family in Cuba.
“For 30 years I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in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. “These were monies drawn from my personal savings account based on the income I have lawfully derived over those 30 years. I look forward to addressing other issues at trial.”
Menendez has temporarily stepped down from his influential post as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced last week. Senate Democratic caucus rules state that any member who is charged with a felony must step aside from any leadership position.
But state leadership is calling for Menendez to leave Congress altogether.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and most of New Jersey’s Democratic House delegation have urged him to resign. Murphy called the allegations “deeply disturbing” and “so serious that they compromise the ability of Sen. Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, on Monday afternoon became the second Senate Democrat to call for Sen. Menendez to resign from the upper chamber. Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., said Saturday that he hopes Menendez “chooses an honorable exit and focuses on his trial.”
“Senator Menendez has broken the public trust and should resign from the U.S. Senate,” Brown wrote in a statement.
Brown, Ohio’s three-term senator, is set to face one of the Senate’s toughest reelection challenges in 2024.
Menendez, who has served in the Senate since 2006, is up for reelection next year. Menendez has not yet said whether he’ll seek another term in 2024. He ignored a shouted question from a reporter about whether he would at the conclusion of his remarks.
U.S. Rep. Andy Kim — a fellow New Jersey Democrat — announced over the weekend will now run for his seat.
“After calls to resign, Senator Menendez said ‘I am not going anywhere.’ As a result, I feel compelled to run against him,” Kim wrote in a social media post. “Not something I expected to do, but NJ deserves better. We cannot jeopardize the Senate or compromise our integrity.”
Though Menendez did not specifically name any politician in his remarks, he seemed to take a shot at those using the indictment to launch political campaigns.
“Remember prosecutors are wrong sometimes. Sadly I know that,” Menendez said. “Instead of waiting for all the facts to be presented, others have rushed to take the opportunity for themselves or those around them.”
This is the second time Menendez has been charged with corruption. A 2015 indictment ended in a mistrial in 2018 after a jury failed to reach a verdict on all counts and a judge acquitted him on some charges.
ABC News’ Isabella Murray contribute to this report.
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