Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., walks through the Senate subway on his way to a vote in the Capitol, in Washington, D.C., May 4, 2023.
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WASHINGTON — Sen. Robert Menendez on Friday vowed to remain in the Senate while he fights federal charges of bribery and extortion announced earlier in the day. C But any committee chair “who is charged with a felony shall immediately step aside” under Democratic caucus rules.
Menendez planned to relinquish his committee chairmanship while he was being prosecuted, NBC News reported, but not his seat in Congress.
“I remain focused on continuing this important work and will not be distracted by baseless allegations,” Menendez said in a statement.
The couple is accused of having “accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for Senator Menendez using his power and influence to protect and to enrich” three New Jersey business associates, according to U.S. Attorney Damian Williams of the Southern District of New York, who brought the charges.
“Those bribes included cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job
, a luxury vehicle, and other things of value,” the federal indictment alleges.[for Nadine]Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a press conference after announcing that U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) was indicted on corruption charges charges at the SDNY office on September 22, 2023 in New York City. 01 The In that case, the argument worked to the senator’s benefit.
Menendez was charged with 14 counts alongside co-defendant Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist whom prosecutors accused of having bribed Menendez with lavish gifts in exchange for using his Senate powers to advance Melgen’s business interests.
But the jury in the case was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, and the judge declared a mistrial in 2017.
On Friday, Menendez said prosecutors were running the same failed play a second time.
“The facts are not as presented” in the indictment, he said. ” “
Yet in spite of damning photos released by prosecutors Friday of gold bars and stacks of $100 bills found in Menendez’s home, the convictions of New Jersey’s senior senator and his co-defendants are far from assured.
Over the past two decades, several high profile cases have raised the bar for evidence in political corruption cases against elected officials.
One of them was Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R), who was charged with bribery in 2008 for accepting home renovations from an oil executive. After Stevens died in a 2010 plane crash, a formal report uncovered serious misconduct by prosecutors and investigators.
At the heart of these cases is a shift in how the law distinguishes between what is a corrupt favor by an elected official and what is a legitimate “official act. “
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was convicted of corruption in 2014, only to have his conviction overturned two years later by the Supreme Court.
In a unanimous ruling, the high court found that prosecutors had applied what justices called “a boundless” definition of what constitutes an official act.
“Setting up a meeting, calling another public official, or hosting an event does not, standing alone, qualify as an ‘official act,'” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts, the author of the 2016 opinion.
Following the McDonnell ruling, another former elected official found guilty of corruption, former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., appealed his conviction from behind bars.
At the time, Jefferson was six years into his 13-year sentence. After