New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez has been indicted on corruption charges in New York this morning, prosecutors announced.
This is the second time Menendez has been charged but the last time his trial ended in a hung jury.
Today’s indictment also names the senator’s wife and a local real estate developer, accusing them both of participating in a corruption and bribery scheme involving the certification of Halal meat by the Egyptian government.
Later Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that Menendez is stepping down from his powerful role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying Menendez “has rightly decided to step down temporarily from his position as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee until the matter has been resolved.”
According to Senate Democrats’ bylaws, “any member who serves in a leadership position in the Conference who is charged with a felony shall cease to exercise the powers and duties of his or her leadership position.”
If Menendez were to resign from his Senate seat, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy would then have to choose a replacement.
Some possible names being considered include New Jersey Reps. Mikie Sherrill, Andy Kim and Josh Gottheimer, as well as Newark mayor Ras Baraka and Murphy himself.
See below for a statement from Senator Menendez:
“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave. Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.
“The excesses of these prosecutors is apparent. They have misrepresented the normal work of a Congressional office. On top of that, not content with making false claims against me, they have attacked my wife for the longstanding friendships she had before she and I even met.
“Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. Senator and serve with honor and distinction. Even worse, they see me as an obstacle in the way of their broader political goals.
“I have been falsely accused before because I refused to back down to the powers that be and the people of New Jersey were able to see through the smoke and mirrors and recognize I was innocent. I have worked every day to repay their trust by fighting to create jobs, strengthen public safety, update infrastructure, and reduce costs for New Jersey families. I have also stood steadfast against dictators around the globe – whether they be in Iran, Cuba, Turkey, or elsewhere – fighting against the forces of appeasement and standing with those who stand for freedom and democracy. I remain focused on continuing this important work and will not be distracted by baseless allegations.
“They wrote these charges as they wanted; the facts are not as presented. Prosecutors did that the last time and look what a trial demonstrates. People should remember that before accepting the prosecutor’s version.
“To my supporters, friends and the community at large, I ask that you recall the other times the prosecutors got it wrong and that you reserve judgement. I am confident that this matter will be successfully resolved once all of the facts are presented and my fellow New Jerseyans will see this for what it is.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.