Sen. Bob Menendez pleads not guilty to bribery charges as resignation calls grow louder

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., pleaded not guilty before a federal judge in New York on Wednesday to corruption charges alleging that he and his wife used his influence to pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.

Attorneys for Menendez and his wife, Nadine, entered pleas of not guilty at their arraignment in the morning before Magistrate Judge Ona Wang. Two other defendants also pleaded not guilty.

The judge approved the conditions for Menendez’s release, including a $100,000 personal recognizance bond, pretrial supervision and a requirement to surrender his personal passports, but not his official one. The senator will be allowed to travel internationally only for official business and with prior notice to pretrial services.

In addition, Menendez cannot have any contact with his co-defendants besides his wife or with personal staff, advisers or Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff with knowledge of the case.

A personal recognizance bond for the senator’s wife was set at $250,000.

The two other defendants arraigned Wednesday on bribery and related charges, businessmen Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes, had personal recognizance bonds set at $1 million and $2 million, respectively, and were restricted mainly to regional travel. A third co-defendant, Wael Hana, was arraigned Tuesday and pleaded not guilty.

The judge warned the defendants Wednesday that if they fail to appear for future court dates or violate the conditions of their release, a warrant would be issued for their arrest and they would be responsible for paying the full amounts of their bail.

Menendez has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. But he faces a deluge of calls to resign from his Democratic colleagues in the Senate and at the local level in New Jersey. As of Wednesday morning, more than two dozen of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate had called for him to step down.

He is expected to address Senate Democrats during their party lunch on Thursday, the first time since the indictment.

Menendez has acknowledged the charges are “salacious,” but he predicted he would ultimately be exonerated.

The indictment alleges that federal investigators found over $480,000 in cash nestled away in the couple’s New Jersey home, “much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe.”

The indictment alleges the couple also received “gold bars, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle and other items of value,” such as jewelry and exercise equipment.

Also charged are three businessmen — Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes — who allegedly paid the bribes. Hana was arraigned Tuesday and pleaded not guilty. Uribe and Daibes were arraigned Wednesday.

At a news conference announcing the charges Friday, Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Daibes’ fingerprints and DNA were found on some of the envelopes of cash in the Menendezes’ Englewood Cliffs home.

In his first public comments on the charges, Menendez, who was the chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time he is alleged to have taken the bribes, said all of the cash was his.

“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 Monday. “These were moneys drawn from my personal savings account based on the income I have lawfully derived over those 30 years.”

Asked Tuesday by reporters on Capitol Hill why he was refusing to resign, Menendez snapped: “Because I’m innocent. What’s wrong with you guys?”

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the No. 2 Senate Democrat, became the highest-ranking member of his caucus to call for Menendez to resign.

“Leaders in New Jersey, including the Governor and my Senate colleague Cory Booker, have made it clear that Sen. Menendez can no longer serve. He should step down,” Durbin wrote in a post on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

The federal indictment is the second Menendez has faced since he became a senator in 2006. He was charged in 2015 with illegally accepting favors from a Florida eye doctor. The case ended in a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict, and federal prosecutors decided not to retry him.

Menendez appears to be the first sitting senator in U.S. history to have been indicted on two unrelated criminal allegations, according to data compiled by the Senate Historical Office.

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