Menendez addresses Democrats, vows to remain in Senate for New Jersey despite bribery charges
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey is accused of bribery charges in an indictment that says gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars were found at his home.
Senator Bob Menendez and his wife Nadine Menendez (not seen) depart a Manhattan court after they were arraigned on federal bribery charges in New York, September 27, 2023.
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"I will continue to cast votes on behalf of the people of New Jersey as I have for 18 years," Menendez told reporters following his closed-door meeting with the Senate Democratic caucus in the Mansfield Room at the U.S. Capitol.
Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, the first Democrat to call for Menendez to step down, in a social media post before the meeting wrote, "Unless Senator Menendez is coming today to resign, I am not interested in hearing his 'explanation' for gold bars stashed in a mattress."
Fetterman, who since has been joined by 29 other senators in seeking Menendez's resignation, skipped the meeting.
"It's a pattern and he really needs to decide to resign," Fetterman told reporters. "He's clearly not going to have an honorable exit."
During the meeting, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York asked the three Democratic senators on the Ethics Committee, Chris Coons of Delaware, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Hawaii's Brian Schatz, to leave the room, which they did, a source in the room told NBC News.
An Ethics Committee into Menendez's conduct is expected.
Schumer has not asked Menendez to resign.
But other Democratic leaders have, among them Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, Senate President pro tempore Patty Murray of Washington and Michigan's Debbie Stabenow.
A number of House Democrats have also said Menendez should leave, including Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Nancy Pelosi of California, the former speaker.
Jeffries on Thursday said, "At the end of the day, his fate will be decided by a jury of his peers."
"Yet it's hard for me to see how the senator can effectively at this moment represent the people he's ably served for decades in New Jersey," Jeffries said.
Menendez, 69, was charged last week in Manhattan federal court with conspiracy to commit bribery and other charges with his wife, Nadine, and three New Jersey businessmen.
The couple pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the charges in federal court in Manhattan.
Prosecutors have said that a raid on their house last year found not only the gold but also hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, and a Mercedes-Benz convertible that they allegedly received in exchange for Menendez using his influence to try to help the three men.