Calls for U.S. Sen Robert Menendez, D-N.J., to leave office continue to grow from pols in The Observer’s readership area and across the continent — and one needn’t look to the senator’s opposition party for that.
The closest politician in our readership to call for Menendez to step aside — he didn’t use the word “resign,” but said all but that — come from U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-9.
“This is a sad day for our great state,” Pascrell said. “The hallmark of our justice system is the presumption of innocence and Sen. Menendez deserves his day in court. But given the gravity of these charges, I do not believe that Sen. Menendez can continue to carry out the important duties of his office for our state.”
Gov. Philip D. Murphy, meanwhile, did not mince his words in calling for Menendez to resign. The governor has long been a supporter of the senator — those days are over. In fact, he says Menendez cannot delay stepping down for another moment.
“The allegations in the indictment against Sen. Menendez and four other defendants are deeply disturbing,” Murphy said in a written statement. “These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system. Under our legal system, Sen. Menendez and the other defendants have not been found guilty and will have the ability to present evidence disputing these charges, and we must respect the process.
“However, the alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Sen. Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation.”
Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake, D-34, who has represented Nutley, Belleville and Bloomfield for nearly six years, and who likewise is a Democrat, echoed the governor’s words.
“The allegations presented against (federal) Sen. Robert Menendez today strike at the core of our responsibilities as public servants. We are entrusted with the faith and confidence of the public, and when that trust is compromised, our ability to serve effectively is compromised as well,” Timberlake said in a prepared statement. “While I acknowledge that this indictment is an accusation and not a confirmation of guilt, and that Sen. Menendez has the right to defend himself against these charges, the allegations outlined in the recently unsealed indictment are of an exceptionally grave nature, and if substantiated, they raise a multitude of deeply concerning questions.
“Furthermore, this is the second time the senator is facing federal charges in less than 10 years. I firmly believe it is in the best interest of New Jersey and our nation as a whole for him to step down without delay, allowing us to move forward with ethical transparency and leadership.”
North Arlington Mayor Daniel H. Pronti says he normally doesn’t rush to call for resignations. This time, however, may be a little different.
“I always like to give everyone the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ benefit of the doubt, but if it turns out that he was accepting bribes, it will be more important to see exactly what he was being coerced to do and how it ultimately affected the taxpayers of New Jersey,” the longtime GOP mayor said.
Menendez, who has since stepped aside as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was indicted Friday, Sept. 22, on corruption charges along with other defendants, including the senator’s own wife, Nadine.
In the indictment, the feds revealed Menendez is alleged to have possessed in excess of $500,000 in his home, $100,000 worth of gold bars — and it is also alleged he has ties to folks with influence on the nation of Egypt. He also stands accused of having shared most sensitive information with those folks.
This is the second time Menendez, who once called Harrison home, has been indicted on corruption charges. Four years ago, all charges against him were dropped after a jury was hung in that trial.
The Union City native vociferously denied the allegations levied against him and, in doing so, rejected calls for him to resign.
“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” Menendez was reported as saying. “Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.
“The excesses of these prosecutors is apparent. They have misrepresented the normal work of a Congressional office. On top of that, not content with making false claims against me, they have attacked my wife for the longstanding friendships she had before she and I even met.
“Those behind this campaign 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. Even worse, they see me as an obstacle in the way of their broader political goals.
“I have been falsely accused before because I refused to back down to the powers that be and the people of New Jersey were able to see through the smoke and mirrors and recognize I was innocent. I have worked every day to repay their trust by fighting to create jobs, strengthen public safety, update infrastructure, and reduce costs for New Jersey families. I have also stood steadfast against dictators around the globe – whether they be in Iran, Cuba, Turkey or elsewhere — fighting against the forces of appeasement and standing with those who stand for freedom and democracy. I remain focused on continuing this important work and will not be distracted by baseless allegations.
“They wrote these charges as they wanted. The facts are not as presented. Prosecutors did that the last time and look what a trial demonstrates. People should remember that before accepting the prosecutor’s version. To my supporters, friends and the community at large, I ask that you recall the other times the prosecutors got it wrong and that you reserve judgment. I am confident that this matter will be successfully resolved once all of the facts are presented and my fellow New Jerseyans will see this for what it is.”
This story continues to develop. Be sure to check back for updates.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.