Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., suggested Monday that he will not resign from his Senate seat amid federal corruption charges and predicted he would be cleared of wrongdoing.
His remarks were soon followed by Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio — chairman of the Banking panel where Menendez chairs a subcommittee — calling on the New Jersey Democrat to step down. Brown is the second Democratic senator to call for Menendez’s resignation.
Speaking to reporters at a news conference in Union City, N.J., where he once served as mayor, Menendez said, “I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey’s senior senator.”
They were his first public remarks since the charges against him were unsealed Friday.
Menendez also offered an explanation for the $480,000 in cash prosecutors said was found in his New Jersey home, “much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe.”
Menendez maintained the money was his and had been earned legitimately.
“For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba,” he said. “These were moneys drawn from my personal savings account based on the income I have lawfully derived over those 30 years.”
The indictment said some of the envelopes “contained the fingerprints and/or DNA” of one of the people charged with bribing Menendez or that person’s driver. Menendez did not address that claim in his remarks 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 allow for all the facts to be presented.”
“The court of public opinion is no substitute for our revered justice system. We cannot set aside the presumption of innocence for political expediency when the harm is irrevocable,” Menendez said.
“Prosecutors get it wrong sometimes,” he said.
It is unclear which family members Menendez was referring to in his comments about the cash or whether their property had been confiscated. While the Cuban government began confiscating some property in 1959 after the revolution, Menendez’s parents came to the United States years earlier, and he was born here in 1954.
His office did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on his remarks.
There have been numerous calls for Menendez to resign from House Democrats and Democratic officials in New Jersey, including Gov. Phil Murphy.
Hours after Menendez’s public remarks, Brown joined the chorus and in doing so became the second Senate Democrat to call for Menendez’s resignation.
“Senator Menendez has broken the public trust and should resign from the U.S. Senate,” Brown said in a statement Monday afternoon.
Over the weekend, Sen. John Fetterman in neighboring Pennsylvania became the first Democratic senator to call for him to resign.
On Monday, Fetterman appeared unmoved by Menendez’s “emergencies” explanation for the large sum of cash in his house. Referring to his comments in a posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, Fetterman wrote, “We have an extra flashlight for our home emergencies.”
Fetterman’s team also confirmed a report in the The Messenger that they are returning $5,000 in donations that Menendez gave to his 2022 campaign. “We are in the process of returning the money,” Fetterman spokesman Joe Calvello told NBC News, “in envelopes stuffed with $100 bills.”
Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., announced Saturday he’d challenge Menendez for his seat. “Not something I expected to do, but NJ deserves better,” Kim wrote on X.
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 indictment alleges they received bribes 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.”
Federal investigators who executed a search warrant at their home found the more than $480,000 in cash and other allegedly ill-gotten gains that they claim were used to bribe Menendez, including a Mercedes-Benz, exercise equipment, home furnishings and “over one hundred thousand dollars’ worth of gold bars,” the indictment said.
Senators, aside from top leaders, make $174,000 a year.
Menendez has denied any wrongdoing and suggested in a statement Friday night that he’s being targeted because of his heritage.
“It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere,” he said.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com