Indicted Sen. Menendez Feeds Into Speculation On Next Political Move

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.


New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who has been repeatedly indicted on federal corruption charges, fed into speculation about his next political move on Thursday when he evaded questions about perhaps running again for reelection but as an Independent.

“When I announce, everybody will know what my intentions are, and until then, everybody can continue to speculate,” Menendez told the Washington Examiner. “When I announce, everybody will know.”

The senator’s remarks follow a Thursday NBC News report indicating that he may be contemplating an independent reelection campaign, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Menendez is currently embroiled in an extensive corruption investigation probing whether he leveraged his position to benefit himself and his wife. Recently, New Jersey businessman Jose Uribe admitted to bribing the senator’s wife, allegedly in return for his assistance in a state insurance fraud inquiry.

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Menendez relinquished his role as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but has rebuffed demands for his resignation. There is speculation that he might consider an independent candidacy to raise funds, potentially to mitigate his increasing legal expenses.

Menendez’s legal expenses are escalating, and sources point out that he can only raise funds if he runs for office. Using campaign funds to cover legal fees is not uncommon; NBC News previously reported that affiliated committees of former President Donald Trump spent nearly $50 million from fundraising revenue on legal expenses last year, the Examiner pointed out.

With the Democratic primary filing deadline set for March 25, Menendez has yet to initiate the process of collecting the 1,000 signatures required for his nominating petitions. However, running as an independent would afford him more time, with only 800 signatures needed by June 4 to secure a spot on the ballot. Moreover, Menendez faces stiff competition in the Democratic primary, as Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) and the state’s first lady, Tammy Murphy, are also contending for the nomination, noted the Examiner.

Federal prosecutors in New York announced in September that they charged Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, of accepting “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes” in exchange for their influence. Afterward, he spoke about the charges at a news conference amid mounting calls for him to resign.

“A cornerstone of the foundation of American democracy and our justice system is the principle that all people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The court of public opinion is no substitute for our revered justice system,” the Democrat senator said.

“We cannot set aside the resumption of innocence for political expediency when the harm is irrevocable… Instead of waiting for all the facts to be presented, others have rushed to judgment because they see a political opportunity for themselves or those around them,” Menendez added.

Menendez made it clear he does not plan to resign: “Not only will I be exonerated, I will still be NJ’s senior senator.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said he is “disappointed” in Menendez, but he hasn’t called for him to resign like Democrats called on now-former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) to step down after he was charged with federal crimes.

But that said, Democratic Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania appears fixated on getting Menendez out of office. After the latest charges were filed, Fetterman said he sent his “ethically challenged” colleague a Cameo video from Santos, who was expelled from the House in September.

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“I thought my ethically-challenged colleague @BobMenendezNJ could use some encouragement given his substantial legal problems,” Fetterman wrote in a post on the X platform. “So, I approached a seasoned expert on the matter to give ‘Bobby from Jersey’ some advice.”

Fetterman’s post contained the Cameo video from Santos, where he said, “Hey Bobby. … Look, I don’t need to tell you, but these people that want to make you get in trouble and want to kick you out and make you run away — you make ’em put up or shut up. You stand your ground, sir.”

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