A growing number of Democrats said Friday that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) needs to resign in the aftermath of being indicted on federal corruption charges.
Hours after the news broke, Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota was the first Democratic lawmaker to call on the New Jersey senator to go.
“I’m appalled,” he said in a CNN interview. “And yes, I think he should resign.”
Asked if he thinks Senate Democratic leaders should push Menendez to leave office, Phillips replied, “Yes. The answer is absolutely.”
It wasn’t long after that that the dam started to break.
“As both a leader in the Democratic Party & the former Attorney General and given the nature of the charges, I call upon Senator Menendez to resign,” former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted. “The nation will be better served if he steps aside and allows a transition to occur that will best serve the people of New Jersey.”
“I don’t have confidence that the Senator has the ability to properly focus on our state and its people while addressing such a significant legal matter,” Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) told The New Jersey Globe. “He should step down.”
Rep. Mikie Sherrill, also a New Jersey Democrat, tweeted that it is “a sad day” for her state and that “it’s in the best interest of our state that Senator Menendez resign.”
Then, the doozy: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and New Jersey Democratic Chair LeRoy Jones ― all Democrats ― issued statements calling on Menendez to resign.
“The alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state,” Murphy said in a statement. “Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation.”
Gold bars? Really, senator?
Earlier Friday, federal prosecutors in New York formally accused Menendez of accepting bribes including $100,000 in gold bars and $480,000 in cash in exchange for official acts that aided an Egyptian American businessman.
Menendez has denied the allegations against him, claiming in a statement that he was being prosecuted by people who “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.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a brief statement that Menendez will temporarily step down as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee as this plays out, praising him for the move. But he may not have had much of a choice, given that the rules of the Senate Democratic Conference bar senators from serving as chairs if they’ve been charged with a felony.
Friday’s news marks the second time that the New Jersey senator has been indicted on corruption charges.
In 2017, his trial ended with a deadlocked jury. He won reelection in 2018.