Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) announced at a press conference Monday that he is staying in office, days after being charged with bribery—though he did not explicitly commit to running for re-election next year.
The Democrat arrived for a press conference in his old stomping grounds in Union City, New Jersey in a Lincoln, not the Mercedes that one of his co-defendants allegedly underwrote for his wife. His brief remarks did not address either the luxury convertible or the gold bars that federal agents discovered at his house during a raid last summer.
He did, however, try to account for the envelopes containing nearly half a million dollars the FBI found stashed in jacket pockets and other parts of the residence—alluding, as he did in his first statement after his indictment Friday, to his Cuban-American heritage.
“For 30 years I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies, and because of the history of my family facing confiscation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,” Menendez asserted. “These were monies drawn from my personal savings account, based on the income I have lawfully derived over those 30 years.”
The senator did not take questions, even those shouted at him as he exited, and did not explain why or how the feds could have found the fingerprints and DNA of developer and co-defendant Fred Daibes and his chauffeur on those envelopes. One, according the Department of Justice, even bore Daibes' return address.
The senator was adamant that he would not resign his seat, but did not signal clearly that he would seek a fourth six-year term.
“I firmly believe when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey’s senior senator,” Menendez said.
The senator also noted that he had on numerous occasions criticized the government of Egypt, which U.S. Attorney Damian Williams alleges he and his wife received bribes from in exchange for information and official actions.
Much of the purported criminal conspiracy revolves around a shadowy firm called IS EG Halal, which The Daily Beast first reported was linked to Daibes last December.
The senator also recalled how he escaped the Department of Justice's clutches in 2017, when a separate bribery case ended in a mistrial. He appeared to condemn Democrats such as New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, multiple members of Congress, and fellow Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), who have all urged him to resign.
Nonetheless, he acknowledged the strength and severity of the evidence.
“To those who have rushed to judgment, you have done so based on a limited set of facts, framed by the prosecution to be as salacious as possible,” he said. “I recognize that this will be the biggest fight yet.”