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Senator Bob Menendez, a top US lawmaker, entered a not-guilty plea to corruption charges, as increasing calls from his Democratic peers for his resignation.
Menendez, alongside his wife Nadine and three businessmen co-defendants, made their pleas in a New York federal court this week.
While Menendez has temporarily stepped down from his position as the chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, he remains confident in his eventual exoneration, stating, “I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented… I still will be New Jersey’s senior senator.”
The Department of Justice accuses Menendez and his wife of taking bribes from businessmen in exchange for political favors, particularly favoring Egyptian government interests. Tangible evidence, including gold bars and significant cash amounts, was reportedly found in the senator’s residence. With Menendez’s significant role in determining US-Egypt policy, such as arms deals, the allegations are particularly damning.
The indictment includes details like a 2018 text exchange where Menendez allegedly informed an Egyptian-American businessman of an arms deal progress, receiving a positive emoji in response.
Menendez’s stance on foreign policy is known to be hawkish, with a strong supportive position on Israel and a tendency toward sanctions against US adversaries.
While numerous Democratic colleagues and figures like Dick Durbin and Bernie Sanders have demanded his resignation or further investigation, some allies, including pro-Israel groups, back Menendez. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee emphasized Menendez’s right to “the presumption of innocence.”
Both the Department of State and the White House have refrained from extensive comments on the issue, the latter labeling the charges as “serious.”