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 not guilty pleas at their arraignment in the morning before Magistrate Judge Ona Wang. Two other defendants also pleaded not guilty.
Wang 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. He will be allowed to travel internationally only for official business and with notice to pretrial services.
In addition, Menendez cannot have any contact with his co-defendants besides his wife or with personal staff members, advisers or Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffers with knowledge of the case.
A personal recognizance bond for his 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 court dates or violate the conditions of their releases, warrants would be issued for their arrests and they would be responsible for paying the full amounts of their bail.
Menendez, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, 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 afternoon, more than half of the Senate Democratic caucus had called for him to step down.
He is expected to address Senate Democrats at their party lunch Thursday, for the first time since the indictment.
Menendez, who has acknowledged the charges are “salacious,” 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.
The three businessmen — Hana, Uribe and Daibes — are accused of paying bribes to Menendez.
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?”
The Senate unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday officially removing Menendez from his chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee. He remains a member of the panel and is still chairman of a Banking subcommittee, because Senate Democratic Caucus rules require a senator under felony indictment to relinquish the gavel of only a full committee under such circumstances.
On Wednesday, Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, 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 on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.
Several senators who have called for Menendez to resign have also said the Senate Ethics Committee should open an investigation.
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.