NEW YORK –
US Sen. Bob Menendez pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal charges accusing him of pocketing cash bribes and gold bars in exchange for using his political influence to secretly promote Egyptian interests and do favors for local people. businessman
Menendez led his wife, who also pleaded not guilty in the case, by the hand as he left court after a brief hearing held in federal court in southern Manhattan, days after prosecutors released the an indictment of alleged corruption on the part of the Democrat.
Menendez spoke to the court only when each defendant took the stand to acknowledge their understanding of the charges against them. A lawyer entered a plea of innocence for Menendez, who was forced to resign as chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee after being indicted.
The senator was released on $100,000 bail, and must surrender his personal passports, but can hold an official passport that allows him to travel outside the United States on government business. The judge ordered him to have no contact with his co-accused, except for his wife. He also cannot contact Senate personnel who know the facts of the case except in the presence of lawyers.
Menendez said the accusations that he abused his power to line his own pockets are baseless. He said that he is confident of being exonerated and he has no intention of leaving the Senate.
However, calls for Menendez to resign continued to grow Wednesday, with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, saying he “needs to resign.” More than half of Senate Democrats now said Menendez should resign, including his colleague of New Jersey, Sen. Cory Booker, who said the case included “shocking allegations of corruption and specific, disturbing details of the wrongdoing.”