Sen.denied the allegations against him on Tuesday on the floor of the U.S. Senate, saying he intends to “prove my innocence” in what the Justice Department has called a years-long bribery scheme.
“I’m innocent and I intend to prove my innocence,” Menendez said. “Not just for me, but for the precedent this case will set for you and future members of the Senate.”
Menendez’s comments came one week after aalleging that the New Jersey Democrat accepted expensive gifts in exchange for making favorable comments about Qatar.
Prosecutors unveiled the charges against Menendez in a September indictment, which was then followed by a superseding indictment in October, both of which related to dealings with Egypt. Menendez has pleaded not guilty. This month’s superseding indictment broadened the allegations to include Qatar.
Menendez said Tuesday that the indictments seek to “convict me in the court of public opinion,” calling the allegations “sensationalized,” while he said they are “creating a rising call for my resignation.”
“The United States Attorney’s Office is engaged not in a prosecution, but a persecution,” he said. “They seek a victory, not justice.”
Menendez fiercely denied the allegations, saying he had received “absolutely nothing” from the government of Qatar or on its behalf “to promote their image or their issues.”
The second superseding indictment accuses Menendez of accepting payment in exchange for making positive public statements about the Qatari government to aid a businessman seeking an investment from a company with ties to the government.
Menendez also faces allegations of conspiring to act as a foreign agent for Egypt’s government, which he called an “unprecedented accusation” that “opens a dangerous door for the Justice Department” to “transform” the normal engagement by members of Congress with a foreign government into a charge of being a foreign agent.
“I don’t want you to lose sight of how dangerous this precedent will be to all of you,” Menendez said.
Menendez’s remarks come as he continues to face calls for his resignation from across the political spectrum, while his trial is set to begin in May. Though Menendez has yet to announce whether he’ll seek reelection in November, multiple Democrats have already jumped into the race, including Tammy Murphy, the wife of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
Asked by reporters following his speech on Tuesday whether he’ll seek reelection, Menendez said he hadn’t made a decision.
“I haven’t decided that yet,” he said, noting that last time he ran for reelection, he declared in March.