Menendez Pleads Not Guilty to Bribery Charges as Senate Democrats Turn on Their Own

Sen. Robert Menendez pleaded not guilty to federal bribery charges at a Manhattan courtroom on Wednesday as more and more Senate Democrats turned on their own and demanded the senior New Jersey Democrat resign his seat.


Sen. Robert Menendez pleaded not guilty to federal bribery charges at a Manhattan courtroom on Wednesday as more and more Senate Democrats turned on their own and demanded the senior New Jersey Democrat resign his seat.

  • Menendez’s court appearance on Wednesday was his first since his indictment on Friday.
  • Menendez is accused of accepting bribes of cash – more than $500,000 was found stashed at his home and a safe deposit box – and solid gold bars in exchange for using his influence to interfere in criminal investigations, help favored associates and secretly advance the interests of the Egyptian government.
  • The three-term senator yelled at reporters on Tuesday after being questions about the allegations on Capitol Hill. “Because I’m innocent! What’s wrong with you guys?” Menendez shouted at the press while repeating, “I’m here to do the work of the people of New Jersey.”
  • More than half of Senate Democrats have called for Menendez to resign, far more than ever called on him to resign after his first corruption indictment back in 2015.
  • In just the last 24 hours, No. 2 Senate Democrat Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Menendez’s home-state colleague – and onetime staunch ally – Cory Booker (D-NJ) demanded Menendez “step down.”
  • Booker was an outspoken defender of Menendez after his 2015 corruption indictment, but now claims “I’ve found the allegations hard to reconcile with the person I know.” Booker said yesterday that the “shocking” charges are “of such a nature that the faith and trust of New Jerseyans as well as those he must work with in order to be effective have been shaken to the core.”
  • Egyptian-American businessman Wael Hana, a Menendez co-defendant, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges that he had bribed Menendez with “at least two one-ounce gold bars, exercise machines, an air purifier and three payments of $10,000 to his wife Nadine Menendez,” another co-defendant. Hana denied being friends with Menendez but conceded knowing his wife for “many, many years.”


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • The New York Times chronicled the “persistent shadow” of corruption that has followed Menendez since his early days as a local elected official in Union City, New Jersey in the 1970s. The Times noted Menendez has been under federal investigation for nearly all of his 18-year tenure in the Senate, a phenomenon virtually unprecedented in modern times.
  • Politico charted the “swift and stunning downfall of [the] New Jersey Teflon Don.” Menendez’s new charges “were so egregious, and showed such a staggering pattern of venality, that loyal Democrats who lavished praise and donations on him for years, even as he faced previous corruption charges, had no choice but to jump ship.”
  • Axios noted Menendez has picked up some unlikely supporters: Senate Republicans. Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Susan Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and J.D. Vance (R-OH) all said that whether Menendez continues in the Senate should be up to him and his voters, not “politicians in fear of their party losing a Senate seat” as Rubio put it.



  • James Fanelli and Corinne Ramey assessed Menendez’s odds of beating his corruption rap for the second time for the Wall Street Journal. Despite the gravity of the charges against him, winning at trial may be difficult due to new Supreme Court precedent. The Court “has made corruption cases against public officials more difficult to win. To prove a bribery scheme, prosecutors need to show that a quid pro quo existed between Menendez and the businessmen—namely that he accepted something of value in exchange for an official act as a senator.”
  • “In his defense of bribery allegations, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) argues he’s just your tio loco, who doesn’t trust banks and prefers a Serta Perfect to Morgan Stanley to hold his money. Call it the “mattress defense,” wrote Jonathan Turley for the New York Post. Turley observed that Menendez “is claiming that he has been squirreling away money for years as a hedge against an authoritarian crackdown — of which his Democratic Party is in control, and he is one of its most senior senators. So he’s worried President Biden is going to grab his gold bars? It is hardly a roaring endorsement of our system.”
  • National Review’s Dan McLaughlin posed some serious questions in light of Menendez’s indictment: “The question isn’t just why Menendez has dug in after being indicted. It’s how he has managed, with a straight face, to remain chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 15 months after the feds found all that loot in his house. Did anybody tell Chuck Schumer in the interim? If not, shouldn’t Attorney General Merrick Garland have alerted the Senate to evidence of a security threat? If so, why didn’t Schumer do anything?”


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© Dominic Moore, 2023