Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday declined join a growing group of Democrats who are calling on indicted Sen. Bob Menendez to resign his seat, though he did say the New Jersey Democrat’s actions fell “way, way below the standard” of the office.
“Like you, I was just deeply disappointed, disturbed when I read the indictment,” Schumer said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “Look, I’ve known Sen. Menendez a very long time. And it was truly, truly upsetting.”
At least 30 of the members of the Democratic caucus, including members of Schumer’s leadership team have called on Menendez to resign. According to CNN’s count on Wednesday, 21 Democrats and independents who caucus with the Democrats have not called on Menendez to resign, including Schumer and Menendez himself. Three of those who have not called on Menendez to resign sit on the Senate Ethics Committee and therefore will not comment on any issue that may come before their panel.
“For senators, there’s a much, much higher standard,” Schumer added. “And clearly, when you read the indictment, Sen. Menendez fell way way below that standard. Tomorrow, he will address the Democratic caucus, and we’ll see what happens after that.”
Menendez is expected to address the Senate Democratic caucus at a closed-door meeting on Thursday, according to Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Mark Warner of Virginia.
On Wednesday, Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, pleaded not guilty to all corruption-related charges.
Menendez has been charged with three counts for allegedly taking bribes to use his political power and connections to help the government of Egypt obtain military aid as well as pressure a state prosecutor investigating New Jersey businessmen and attempt to influence the federal prosecution of a co-defendant.
Co-defendants Jose Uribe and Fred Daibe, entered not guilty pleas as well. A fifth co-defendant, Wael Hana, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.
Menendez has said he will not step down. In a public statement Monday, he accused those who “rushed to judgment” of doing so for “political expediency.”
“I recognize this will be the biggest fight yet,” Menendez said, referencing the legal battle ahead. “But as I have stated throughout this whole process, I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey’s senior senator.”