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Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez angrily responded to his indictment on federal corruption charges Wednesday, telling a cheering crowd he is "outraged" by the charges and declaring, "I am not going anywhere."
Menendez was charged Wednesday for allegedly accepting nearly $1 million in lavish gifts and campaign contributions from a political donor in return for political favors.
The influential senator was indicted by a federal grand jury on 14 counts, including bribery and conspiracy, for his dealings with benefactor and friend Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor.
"For nearly three years I've lived under a Justice Department cloud, and today I’m outraged that this cloud has not been lifted,” Menendez told supporters in Newark.
"I am outraged that prosecutors at the Justice Department were tricked into starting this investigation three years ago with false allegations by those who have a political motive to silence me," Menendez said. "But I will not be silenced. I am confident that at the end of the day I will be vindicated and they will be exposed."
Menendez was accused of using his position to improperly aid Melgen in million dollar Medicare billing disputes. The indictment states that Melgen was also looking for Menendez’s help in getting visas for the businessman’s girlfriends.
Menendez temporarily stepped down as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday.
"I am angry because prosecutors at the Justice Department don't know the difference between friendship and corruption, and have chosen to twist my duties as a senator and my friendship into something that is improper,” Menendez shot back.
"They are dead wrong and I am confident that they will be proven so," he said.
The New Jersey senator has also had to reimburse the doctor for use of his luxury plane for travel to the Dominican Republic after reports that the flights weren't properly reported.
Fellow New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, said, "Senator Menendez has never wavered in his commitment to the people of New Jersey. He's been an invaluable resource and a mentor to me since I arrived in the Senate. Our system of justice is designed to be fair and impartial, and it presumes innocence before guilt. I won't waver in my commitment to stand alongside my senior senator to serve our great state. Our nation and state face critical issues and I will continue to partner with Senator Menendez to take on the challenges before us."
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, thanked Menendez from stepping down from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and called him "a consistent champion for the middle class."
"As I have said about both Democrats and Republicans, our justice system is premised on the principle of innocent until proven guilty and Senator Menendez should not be judged until he has his day in court," Reid said in a statement.
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