Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to resign on Monday night, becoming one of the most prominent figures in the Democratic Party to demand his resignation in the wake of his indictment on bribery charges.
During an interview with MSNBC host Jen Psaki, Pelosi, 83, acknowledged the serious charges against Menendez and stated, “I respect their position that they are taking, and the charges are formidable.” She also commented that it would “probably be a good idea if he did resign.”
Sen. Menendez, aged 69, has refused to step down despite his indictment, along with his wife Nadine, on three counts related to an alleged “corrupt bribery agreement” involving three wealthy businessmen from New Jersey, aimed at benefiting both the individuals and the government of Egypt.
The indictment alleges that Menendez accepted $486,461 in cash payments, $150,000 in gold bars, and a 2019 Mercedes-Benz convertible worth $60,000 in exchange for using his influence to protect the interests of businessmen Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes. The money and assets were discovered during a federal raid on the Menendez residence in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, in June 2022.
Pelosi further added that Rep. George Santos (R-NY), who is facing charges of embezzlement of campaign funds, fraudulently obtaining COVID-related unemployment benefits, and lying to Congress, should also resign.
Several Democratic senators, including John Fetterman and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Peter Welch of Vermont, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Jon Tester of Montana, have joined Pelosi in calling for Menendez’s resignation. Additionally, several House Democrats have made similar demands.
In response to mounting pressure, Menendez stepped down from his role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, following a request from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). However, neither Schumer nor Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have explicitly called for Menendez to leave his Senate office.
Menendez claimed that he had withdrawn the funds over three decades and kept them for emergencies, citing his Cuban immigrant background. His wife was found to have stored an additional $70,000 in cash in a safe deposit box.
In return for these illicit gains, Menendez allegedly shielded the businessmen and attempted to obstruct a criminal investigation into one of them by pressuring President Biden to nominate Philip Sellinger as the US Attorney for New Jersey, believing that this appointment could influence the prosecutor’s actions.
“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 the New Jersey’s [sic] senior senator,” Menendez said during a press conference Monday.
“The allegations leveled against me are just that — allegations,” Menendez added.
As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez also reportedly shared sensitive information with Egyptian officials and secretly lobbied his colleagues to release $300 million in aid to Cairo.
If convicted on all counts, Menendez and his wife face up to 45 years in federal prison, while each businessman faces up to 25 years in prison upon conviction. The charges were announced by Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams in a press conference, where he also noted that the investigation was still ongoing.
For his defense, Menendez has enlisted the services of high-profile Washington, DC, attorney Abbe Lowell, who is also representing Hunter Biden in federal gun charges. Lowell previously represented Menendez during his 2015 federal corruption indictment, which ended in a hung jury two years later. In that case, Menendez had been charged with improperly accepting gifts from a Florida eye surgeon, including all-expense-paid trips to Paris and the doctor’s villa in the Dominican Republic.
Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as her husband Paul Pelosi, have long been accused of “insider trading” due to their improbable track record of lucrative stock trades, which has amassed the San Francisco power couple millions during her time in office.