Within a week of the indictment of Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, 30 senators — all Democrats — have called for him to resign.
Robert Menendez to Resign?
It may be the difference between Democrats and Republicans, or possibly the difference between Donald Trump and everyone else. But when a Democratic senator was indicted last week on federal corruption charges, it took just a few days for more than half the Democrats in the Senate to call for his resignation.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) was indicted last Friday, along with his wife and three New Jersey businessmen. The senator, according to prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, carried out a “years-long bribery scheme,” in which the businessmen “collectively paid hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes, including cash, gold, a Mercedes Benz, and other things of value – in exchange for Senator Menendez agreeing to use his power and influence to protect and enrich those businessmen and to benefit the Government of Egypt.”
It was Menendez’s second criminal indictment; he had been charged in 2015 in a separate case, also charging corruption and bribery, although that case ended in a mistrial, and Menendez has remained in the Senate.
Menendez pleaded not guilty to all charges on Wednesday.
The charges against Menendez directly contradicted Republican narratives about “weaponized government” and a “two-tiered system of justice,” with the Justice Department of a Democratic administration indicting a Democratic senator; Menendez’s first indictment also came during the Obama Administration.
Another difference? While many Republicans have taken it as a given, at least in their public comments, that the indictments against former President Trump are all a witch-hunt and a conspiracy to keep Trump out of office, Democrats are not only alleging similar conspiracies against Menendez, but are willing to call for consequences. In fact, more Democratic senators than not have called for the New Jersey senator to resign.
According to CNN, 30 Democratic senators, out of the 51 who caucus with the party, have called on Menendez to resign. These include the other New Jersey Democratic senator, Cory Booker, as well as Senate Majority Whip Sen. Dick Durban (D-IL).
“I believe stepping down is best for those Senator Menendez has spent his life serving,” Sen. Booker said Tuesday, per CNN.
Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) had been the first senator to call for Menendez, who represents a neighboring state, to resign. Some Democrats have expressed their desire to see the legal process play out, or to led the voters of New Jersey decide, when Menendez is up for re-election in 2014. One Democratic Congressman, Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) has announced plans to challenge Menendez for the Senate seat.
Menendez himself has both maintained his innocence and vowed to fight the charges.
“I recognize this will be the biggest fight yet,” Menendez said, per CNN, of his legal battle. “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.”
No Republican senators have yet called for Menendez to resign. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), while calling the charges “serious and troubling,” called for Menendez to be “judged by jurors and New Jersey’s voters, not by Democratic politicians who now view him as inconvenient.”
Ironically, it’s not hard to imagine, should Donald Trump return to the presidency, that he could grant a pardon or clemency to Menendez. During his term, Trump commuted the sentences of at least two former Democratic officials, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who had been convicted on corruption charges; Blagojevich had past history with Trump, having appeared on “The Celebrity Apprentice.”
Trump also reportedly considered pardoning another such Democrat, former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, but thought better of it. Silver, convicted in 2015 on fraud charges, died in prison about a year later.
Author Expertise and Experience:
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.