Texas Latino Democrats call on Sen. Bob Menendez to resign after bribery indictment
Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
WASHINGTON — Texas Democrats in Congress began calling for Sen. Bob Menendez to resign Tuesday after the New Jersey Democrat’s recent corruption indictment.
“He absolutely deserves the full extent of due process as anyone accused of a crime does, but I’m a big believer in preserving the integrity of our institution and making sure that we do everything possible not to lose the public’s trust,” U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, said Tuesday night in a brief interview. “I do believe he should step down.”
"I join an overwhelming number of Senators and members of Congress in saying that Senator Menendez has dedicated himself to public service for a long time, and now he should choose an honorable exit for the good of the public," U.S. Rep. Greg Casar, D-Austin, said in a statement.
Federal prosecutors indicted Menendez and his wife Nadine law week, alleging the senator accepted bribes, including a luxury car and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gold, to help the Egyptian government. Menendez has denied the allegations and asserted that he is the victim of a racialized attack because he is Latino.
But Escobar, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said after reading the indictment, she doubted ethnicity played a role in the charges.
“I absolutely agree there’s bias in our system. I don’t see it in this case,” Escobar said.
Escobar and Casar are among the first in the caucus to call for Menendez’s resignation. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-New York, asked for Menendez to step down during a Sunday interview on “Face the Nation.”
A host of other Democrats have come out this week calling for Menendez’s resignation, including the senator’s close allies within the upper chamber and from his home state including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and the state’s junior senator, Cory Booker.
“Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost. Senator Menendez has made these sacrifices in the past to serve. And in this case he must do so again,” Booker said in a statement Tuesday.
But other members of the CHC have so far been hesitant to weigh in on the issue. Menendez is a frequent partner with Latino House Democrats, including many Texans, on issues ranging from border and immigration to housing and Spanish-language misinformation. Menendez is the highest ranking Latino in Congress. Menendez’s son, U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez, Jr., is a member of the CHC.
Sen. Menendez “has a tremendous portfolio of work and success,” Escobar said.“I’ve thought a lot about his kids, and that’s the most heartbreaking component to me.”
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, a CHC member, said in a text message: “Although the language of the indictment is clearly disturbing. And the U.S. Federal criminal system is very reliable. I still believe in due process & think we should allow the case to take its course.”
Garcia and Castro were among the Texas Democrats who were vocal in calling for Attorney General Ken Paxton to be removed from office after the Texas House charged him on 16 articles of impeachment related to alleged bribery. Paxton has also been under federal indictment since 2015 over securities fraud charges. The Texas Senate acquitted Paxton on all counts largely on party lines earlier this month.
Menendez has already given up his chairmanship atop the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senate Democratic Caucus rules forbid a senator to lead a committee if they are under indictment.
As The Texas Tribune's signature event of the year, The Texas Tribune Festival brings Texans closer to politics, policy and the day’s news from Texas and beyond. On Sept. 23, we wrapped our 2023 Festival — three lively days packed with 125+ sessions and events. Browse on-demand recordings and catch up on the biggest headlines from Festival events at the Tribune’s Festival news page.