Leading Senate Democrat Dick Durbin (Il.) is standing by New Jersey senator Bob Menendez in the wake of his indictment for bribery.
In a CNN interview, Durbin declined to call for his colleague to resign as he compared the charges with the “equally serious” Trump indictments.
Some high-profile Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff (Ca.), New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, and senator John Fetterman (Pa.), have called for Menendez to resign immediately - apparently sensing an opportunity to quash Republicans' claims about a two-tiered justice system.
Trump has been indicted four times, twice federally, by prosecutors aligned with the Democratic Party. He has blasted the charges as a coordinated attempt to interfere in the 2024 presidential election, which is shaping up to be a rematch between Trump and Biden.
Durbin compared the charges against Menendez to the Trump indictments, but he fell short of urging Menendez to resign.
“This is a very serious charge. There’s no question about it. But it bears reminding us of what I’ve said about the indictments against Donald Trump, equally serious charges. These are, in fact, indictments that have to be proven. Under the rule of law, a person who is accused is entitled to the presumption of innocence. And it’s the responsibility of the government to prove that case.”
Beginning in 2018, Menendez allegedly used his influence over foreign affairs to benefit the Egyptian government and associates of his wife Nadine, in exchange for lavish gifts including hundreds of thousands in cash, a Mercedes convertible, and kilograms of solid gold.
This is not the first time Menendez is on the wrong side of the law. He was previously indicted in 2015 for accepting bribes from a Florida eye doctor in exchange for government favors, but the case ended in a mistrial.
Durbin suggested it was sufficient that Menendez resigned his position as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He said it’s up to voters and Menendez to decide his fate.
“He lost the chairmanship of one of our most important committees, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In terms of resignation, that’s a decision to be made by Senator Menendez and the people of New Jersey.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Ny.) also has not called for Menendez to step aside, praising him as a “dedicated public servant.” President Biden has been silent on the controversy.
For his part, Menendez has said the charges are racially motivated, citing his Hispanic heritage.