Sen. Bob Menendez, DN.J., suggested Monday that he would not resign his Senate seat amid federal corruption charges and predicted he would be cleared of wrongdoing.
His comments soon echoed those of Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown — chairman of the banking committee, of which Menendez is chairman of a subcommittee — called on the New Jersey Democrat to step down. Brown is the second Democratic senator to call for Menendez’s resignation.
Speaking to reporters in Union City, NJ, where he once served as mayor, Menendez said, “When all the facts are presented, I’m sure I’ll be acquitted, but I’ll still be New Jersey’s oldest. Senator.”
They were his first public comments since the charges against him were unsealed on Friday.
Menendez also offered an explanation for the $480,000 in cash found in his New Jersey home, “much of which was stuffed in envelopes and hidden in clothes, closets and safes.”
Menendez maintained the money was his and legally earned.
“For 30 years, I’ve taken thousands of dollars out of my personal savings account that I kept for emergencies and because of my family’s history of confiscation in Cuba,” he said. “These are money taken from my personal savings account based on my legitimate earnings over the past 30 years.”
Some of the envelopes “contain fingerprints and/or DNA” of either Menendez or one of the individuals accused of bribing the man’s driver, the indictment said. Menendez did not address that claim in his comments and did not take questions from reporters, but said he should be presumed innocent.
“The allegations against me are just that — allegations,” he said.
He asked his congressional colleagues to “pause and let all the facts come out.”
“The court of public opinion is no substitute for our respected justice system. When the harm is irreversible, we cannot set aside the presumption of innocence for political expediency,” Menendez said.
“Lawyers are sometimes wrong,” he said.
It’s unclear which family members Menendez was referring to in his comments, whether the money or their property was confiscated. When the Cuban government began Confiscation of certain properties After the revolution in 1959, Menendez’s parents had come to the United States several years earlier, and he was born here in 1954.
His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
There have been calls for Menendez to resign from House Democrats and Democratic officials in New Jersey, including Gov. Bill Murphy.
Hours after Menendez’s public comments, Brown joined the chorus.
“Senator Menendez has violated the public trust and must resign from the United States Senate,” Brown said in a statement Monday afternoon.
Over the weekend, Sen. in neighboring Pennsylvania. John Fetterman became the first Democratic senator to call for his resignation.
On Monday, Fetterman appeared unmoved by Menendez’s “emergency” explanation for the large sum of money in his home. Referring to his views, A Posting On X, formerly known as Twitter, Fetterman wrote, “We have an extra flashlight for home emergencies.”
Fetterman’s team also confirmed a statement messenger Menendez is returning $5,000 in donations to his 2022 campaign. Fetterman spokesman Joe Calvello told NBC News, “We’re giving refunds in envelopes stuffed with $100 bills.”
Rep. Andy Kim, TN, announced Saturday that he is challenging Menendez for his seat. “Not what I expected, but NJ deserves to do better” Kim wrote in X.
Menendez and his wife were charged Friday with conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion. “Cash, gold bars, home mortgage payments, compensation for low or no-show work, a luxury vehicle and other items of value,” the indictment said.
Federal investigators executed a search warrant at their home Alleged $480,000 in cash and other ill-gotten gains were allegedly used to pay bribes to Menendez, including Mercedes-Benz, exercise equipment, home furnishings and “more than a hundred thousand dollars worth of gold bars.”
Senators, excluding top leaders, earn $174,000 a year.
Menendez has denied any wrongdoing and suggested in a statement Friday night that he was being targeted because of his heritage.
“I don’t understand how quick some people are to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I’m not going anywhere,” he said.