Amid mounting calls for his resignation, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) held a press conference Monday morning, asserting he is innocent until proven guilty and asking his colleagues in Congress and in New Jersey to not rush to judgment.
“A cornerstone of the foundation of American democracy and our justice system is the principle that all people are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Menendez said. “All people. I ask for nothing more and deserve nothing less. The court of public opinion is no substitute for our revered justice system.”
He also pushed back on the growing list of lawmakers calling on him to resign from office, saying they “rushed to judgment because they see a political opportunity for themselves or those around them.”
“All I humbly ask for in this moment, in my colleagues in Congress, the elected leaders and the advocates of New Jersey — that I have worked with for years — as well as each person who calls New Jersey home, is to pause and allow for all the facts to be presented,” Menendez said.
On Friday — the day Menendez’s indictment was unsealed — a handful of New Jersey Democrats — including Reps. Andy Kim and Mikie Sherill (D-NJ) and Gov. Phil Murphy — publicly called for the senator to resign. If Menendez were to step down, it would open up a competitive race among New Jersey Democrats eyeing his seat, including those from the state’s congressional delegation who were quick to demand he step down.
Menendez is facing three counts in a Manhattan federal indictment. The senator and his wife Nadine have been accused of allegedly taking gold bars, furniture, a Mercedes-Benz convertible, cash, and other favors from three New Jersey businessmen in exchange for official acts, according to the indictment.
Those official acts allegedly included transferring sensitive government information to the government of Egypt, trying to thwart state and federal criminal investigations of his associates, among other things.
During his remarks, Menendez also tried to explain away parts of the allegations against him, saying that he has “withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash” from his “personal savings account” over the past three decades “because of the history of [his] family facing confiscation in Cuba.”
“Now this may seem old fashioned, but these were moneys drawn from my personal savings account based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years. I look forward to addressing other issues at trial,” Menendez said before listing many of the most popular laws — from the Affordable Care Act to the Infrastructure Bill — that he had a hand in passing over the years.
Menendez did not take questions.