AOC Shuts Down Sen. Menendez for Claiming People Want Him to Resign Because He’s Latino

Despite being indicted for allegedly receiving bribes including literal gold bars, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) thinks the calls for him to resign are just racist.

Politics
AOC Shuts Down Sen. Menendez for Claiming People Want Him to Resign Because He’s Latino
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After Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and his wife were indicted Friday on federal bribery charges—the second time Menendez has been charged!—some Democrats, including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Sen. John Fetterman (PA), have begun calling on him to resign. But, not only is Bob choosing to persist, he’s choosing to not-so-subtly call his critics racist.

Menendez is up for re-election next year, the same time as the presidential election. His refusal to step down presents a massive optics problem at a time when his party is trying to drag the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, through the mud for his multiple indictments. Since the charges against Menendez became public, it seems like he simply hopes to wave away his own indictment and ignore the dissonance of Democrats asking people to vote for Joe Biden over Trump…but then support Menendez over any challengers.

The Senator and his wife are accused of accepting wads of cash and literal gold bars in exchange for favors like orchestrating hundreds of millions in federal aid to Egypt. Following news of the indictment, Menendez said he would “temporarily” step down as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but he was not going to resign altogether. But he’s no hero, as Senate Democrats’ bylaws require anyone in a leadership position to step down from that role if charged with a felony. Menendez said in a statement Friday:

“Those who believe in justice believe in innocence until proven guilty. I intend to continue to fight for the people of New Jersey with the same success I’ve had for the past five decades. This is the same record of success these very same leaders have lauded all along. 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.”

As if that weren’t gross enough, he kept going, saying that people criticizing him “simply cannot accept that a first generation Latino-American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. Senator and serve with honor and distinction.”

This is an absurd argument, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said as much to CBS on Sunday when she called on him to resign. “As a Latina, there are absolutely ways in which there is systemic bias, but I think what is here in this indictment is quite clear.” She said the legal standard in the U.S. is innocent until proven guilty, but “when it comes to the political and the standard of dignity that we want to maintain for the public in the United States Congress, I do believe it is in the best interest [for Menendez to resign].” She added: “Consistency matters. It shouldn’t matter if it’s a Republican or a Democrat.”

Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a pathetic statement that ignores the political realities, saying that “Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey. He has a right to due process and a fair trial.” Schumer added that Menendez had “rightly decided” to step down from his committee chair post as if that was some big gesture.

Chuck, sir, this is……..no. It’s possible Schumer is waiting for a critical mass of his membership to call on Menendez to resign, but that feels cowardly, especially given the party’s messaging on Trump. So far, just one Senator has said the guy needs to go: Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), though others have come pretty close, including Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).

“Senator Menendez should resign,” Fetterman said in a statement. “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. I hope he chooses an honorable exit and focuses on his trial.”

Menendez announced at a press conference on Monday that he’s staying put. He was expected to announce that he’s running for re-election, but he didn’t say anything about 2024 during the news conference. (The New Jersey Globe reported that he wanted to have the presser at an elementary school in the town where he grew up and served as mayor, but the school declined.) Meanwhile, Menendez has hired the same lawyer he used in his 2015 corruption case, Abbe Lowell, who is currently also representing Hunter Biden on his federal tax and firearm charges.

For what it’s worth, Menendez already has a primary challenger, Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.). Kim wrote on Twitter: “Not something I expected to do, but NJ deserves better. We cannot jeopardize the Senate or compromise our integrity.”

I sure hope a bunch of Democratic Senators find their spines and do the right thing ASAP.

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