Democratic senators reluctant to join John Fetterman in calling for Bob Menendez’s resignation

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Penn., has called for New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez to resign in the wake of bombshell bribery allegations against him, but so far their Democratic colleagues are being more guarded.

In interviews on Sunday news programs, three Democratic senators were highly critical of Menendez, who was recently indicted on sweeping corruption charges, but did not call for him to vacate his seat in the Senate, where Democrats have a slim majority.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who’s on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was until Friday chaired by Menendez, called the allegations against him “devastating.”

“No senators should be trading on their position in order to enrich themselves. It is hard for me to believe that Senator Menendez can be effective in his job given these allegations, but I think I want to get back and talk to my colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee before I recommend a path forward for Senator Menendez,” Murphy said in an interview with MSNBC’s “Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart”

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., told CBS’ “Face the Nation” the charges against Menendez are “serious and shocking.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Kelly said, noting that Menendez has stepped down from his post as Foreign Relations chair.

“That’s a serious step,” Kelly said, but “I think Sen. Menendez is going to have to think long and hard about the cloud that’s going to hang over his service in the United State Senate.”

“He’s got to figure out whether he can adequately serve the people of New Jersey,” Kelly said.

Menendez and his wife were indicted Friday on charges that include conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion. The bribes they allegedly received included “cash, gold bars, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle and other items of value,” the indictment alleges.

Federal investigators who executed a search warrant at his Englewood Cliffs, N.J., home found more than $480,000 in cash, “much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe,” according to the indictment.

Fetterman became the first Democratic senator to call for Menendez to resign Saturday. “He’s entitled to the presumption of innocence under our system, but he is not entitled to continue to wield influence over national policy, especially given the serious and specific nature of the allegations,” he said in a statement.

Menendez has denied wrongdoing, and said in a statement Friday night that “I’m not going anywhere.”

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday “there’s no question” that charges against Menendez are that “very serious.”

But his future is up to him and his constituents, he said. “In terms of resignation, that’s a decision to be made by Senator Menendez and the people of New Jersey.”

“The person who is accused is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and it’s the responsibility of the government to prove that case. I have said that about Donald Trump. I will say the same thing about Bob Menendez,” Durbin added.

Numerous Democrats in Menendez’s home state, meanwhile, including N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy, have called for him to step down. Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., has also called on Menendez to resign, and said Saturday he plans to challenge him for his seat.

Menendez has said prior to the indictment that he plans to seek re-election next year. Durbin told CNN “that remains to be seen.”

Menendez’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The senator did get some support Sunday from an unlikely source — Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y.

Santos, who was indicted by federal prosecutors on fraud charges in May and has faced bipartisan calls to resign, was asked by NBC News if he thought Menendez should step down.

“I think due process is important and I think he has the right to defend himself. He’s innocent until proven guilty this the media has to stop acting like everybody is guilty before they’re even judged that by a jury,” said Santos, who’s pleaded not guilty in his own case.

“When did we walk away from the fabric of our Constitution that everybody has a presumption of innocence before anything else? So I don’t I don’t think he should resign.”

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