Murphy, top Democratic leaders in state call for Menendez to resign

Gov. Phil Murphy and other top Democratic leaders in the state called for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez to resign late Friday afternoon, hours after Menendez was indicted on federal bribery charges.

“The allegations in the indictment against Sen. Menendez and four other defendants are deeply disturbing,” Murphy said. “These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system.

“The alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Sen. Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation.”

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge), state Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Clark) and state Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones also called on Menendez (D-N.J.) to resign.

At the national level, Representatives Andy Kim (D-3rd Dist.) was the first to call for his resignation (doing so before Murphy). Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.), Bill Pascrell (D-9th Dist.), Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) did as well. Josh Gottheimer (D-5th Dist.) had not issued a statement of any kind as of Saturday morning.The senator’s son, Rob Menendez (D-8th Dist.) offered a statement of support for his father.Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the junior senator from New Jersey, had not issued a statement of any kind.

Menendez, in a statement Friday evening just after 7:30, said he has no plans to resign.

“Those who believe in justice believe in innocence until proven guilty,” he said in the statement. “I intend to continue to fight for the people of New Jersey with the same success I’ve had for the past five decades.

“This is the same record of success these very same leaders have lauded all along. It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere.”

The charges against Menendez are startling.

Earlier Friday, the Justice Department charged that Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian, along with New Jersey real estate developer Fred Daibes and associates Wael Hana and Jose Uribe, enjoyed a “corrupt relationship” in which they accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from at least 2018 up until about 2022.

The indictment details that the feds have seized $100,000 worth of gold bars and more than $480,000 in cash, mostly stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets and a safe at their home and bank.

Menendez and his wife are charged with three counts, including conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.

Menendez is one of the most powerful U.S. senators, serving as head of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senate Democratic Caucus rules will force Menendez to step aside as chairman, but he can still serve on the panel.

Menendez, who has been in the Senate since 2006, is up for reelection next year.

Democratic leaders are asking him to step aside now.

“The charges laid out against Sen. Menendez today go against everything we should believe as public servants,” Coughlin said. “We are given the public’s trust, and once that trust is broken, we cannot continue.

“Though I know that this indictment is an accusation, not a conviction, and the senator has the right to defend himself from these charges, I believe Sen. Menendez must immediately step down and allow New Jersey, and America, to move forward.”

Scutari said it was a sad day for the state of New Jersey.

“The allegations laid out in today’s indictment are alarming, and they raise serious questions about the senator’s ability to continue to serve,” he said. “I strongly believe that all Americans deserve the presumption of innocence and the ability to fully defend themselves. Due to the severity of the charges brought against him today, I believe Sen. Menendez must resign from office to pursue his defense and allow our state and our nation to move forward.”

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, an announced candidate for governor, issued a statement on the platform previously known as Twitter:“It’s been well known that there has never been a close relationship between Senator Menendez and I — but I genuinely feel bad for the embarrassment he has caused all of New Jersey who trusted him with a vote. We work hard to change a bad narrative + the detail of his indictment tarnishes all of us in our state.”

Friday marked the second time Menendez has been indicted. An indictment on corruption charges in 2015 ended in a mistrial in 2018 — after a jury failed to reach a verdict on all counts. The judge acquitted him on some charges.

Other Democratic leaders calling on Menendez to resign include:

  • U.S. House of Representatives: Andy Kim (D-3rd Dist.); Donald Norcross (D-1st Dist.); Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.); Bill Pascrell (D-9th Dist.); and Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.).
  • State Senate: Andrew Zwicker (D-Hillsborough) and Vin Gopal (D-Ocean Twp.);
  • State Assembly: Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough).