Cory Booker Is Conspicuously Quiet About Bob Menendez’s Indictment

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Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) arrive to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, 2017.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) arrive to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, 2017.

WASHINGTON ― Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has not said what he thinks of the indictment against his close colleague and fellow Democratic senator from New Jersey Bob Menendez.

Prosecutors say Menendez used his position to do favors for New Jersey businessmen who in return showered the senator with cash and gold. Menendez has denied the charges and on Monday lashed out against everyone who called for his resignation.

“To those who have rushed to judgment, you have done so based on a limited set of facts framed by the prosecution to be as salacious as possible,” Menendez said at a press conference in New Jersey.

Most members of the congressional delegation from New Jersey have called on Menendez to resign. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) also said Menendez should leave office, and Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) even announced he would run against Menendez in next year’s Democratic primary.

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) is the only Democratic senator who has said Menendez should step down. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday called Menendez “a dedicated public servant” and praised him for stepping down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he was required to do according to Senate rules.

A representative for Booker declined to comment Monday.

As chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez wields significant influence in the Senate. He often makes the final call on Democrats’ approach to key national security issues ― and under both presidents Joe Biden and Barack Obama, Menendez has been more hawkish on specific issues than most others in his party, resisting pressure to be more moderate. His colleagues perceive him as sensitive to criticism and vindictive toward those he sees as betraying or hurting him, congressional staffers say.

Asked about Booker’s position, a Democratic Senate aide told HuffPost: “I think he’s scared, like everyone is of Menendez.”

One senator, who requested anonymity to speak freely, has served with Menendez for years and said it is “very fair” to describe him as vindictive.

Booker stood by Menendez when he was indicted in 2015 on a separate set of corruption allegations. Menendez beat the rap in 2017 thanks to a hung jury.

During an interview with HuffPost in 2019, when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Booker strongly defended his colleague, claiming that even the jury was outraged by the government’s case against Menendez.

“Bob is my friend. There’s no senator I’ve worked more closely with. He is an extraordinary senator. I’ve seen him in the most intimate moments and didn’t see a hint of corruption,” Booker said. “I will stand by Bob Menendez.”

Fetterman said Monday that he’s heard Menendez “enforces a hard grudge” but that he hoped the reputation was unfounded and that Menendez would resign.

As for the case against him, Menendez said prosecutors make mistakes, like they did in 2015 when they first charged him. He said the cash-stuffed envelopes investigators found throughout his house last year reflect his response to the trauma his parents experienced in Cuba before they fled to the U.S. in 1953, shortly before Menendez was born.

“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,” Menendez said.

Kevin Robillard and Jen Bendery contributed reporting.

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