Washington — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York became the latest Democratic lawmaker to call for the resignation of New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez after his indictment on federal bribery charges, saying he should step down over the “extremely serious” allegations.
“I think the situation is quite unfortunate, but I do believe that it is in the best interest for Sen. Menendez to resign in this moment,” Ocasio-Cortez told “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan on Sunday. “Consistency matters. It shouldn’t matter if it’s a Republican or a Democrat. The details in this indictment are extremely serious. They involve the nature of not just his but all of our seats in Congress.”
An indictment unsealed on Friday charged Menendez, his wife and three New Jersey business associates with various crimes related to an alleged bribery scheme. Prosecutors said the Menendezes received hundreds of thousands of dollars and lavish luxury gifts in exchange for the senator wielding his influence to benefit the businessmen and the government of Egypt.
Menendez, a Democrat who has served in the Senate since 2006, vigorously defended himself after the indictment was made public, saying the “baseless” charges were part of an “active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”
A wave of Democratic lawmakers and New Jersey officials, including Gov. Phil Murphy, soon began calling for Menendez to step aside as the legal process unfolds. Menendez rejected those calls out of hand, saying he is “not going anywhere.” He added that it was “not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat.”
Asked about those comments on Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez said the details in the indictment were damning enough to warrant his resignation.
“As a Latina, there are absolutely ways in which there is systemic bias, but I think what is here in this indictment is quite clear. And I believe it is in the best interest to maintain the integrity of the seat. I want to emphasize that all people, they must be extended the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. That is the legal reality in our country,” she told “Face the Nation.” “But when it comes to the political and the standard of dignity that we want to maintain for the public in the United States Congress, I do believe it is in the best interest.”