Democrats are refusing to say whether Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) should step down from office if he is convicted of felony corruption. The Democratic senator is facing 14 counts of corruption charges, including bribery and fraud, after he allegedly took bribes from a wealthy eye doctor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, who was convicted of Medicare fraud earlier this year for his role in the scheme.
Menendez, who says he’s innocent and has no plans to resign from office, faces 15 years in prison for each of the eight bribery charges. Republican Gov. Chris Christie could pick a Republican senator to succeed Menendez if he does step down from office — a move that could tip the Senate more fully Republican after months of intraparty dissention.
On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) was asked if he plans to stand by Menendez if his colleague is convicted. Schumer punted the question.
“Senator Menendez is issuing a spirited defense,” Schumer said in response to a question from CNN’s Manu Raju. “We all believe in the presumption of innocence in this country, and Senator Menendez is fighting very hard, and we respect that greatly.”
Phil Murphy, who is running for governor as a Democrat in New Jersey, refused to say whether Menendez should step down amid the felony corruption trial for which his alleged co-conspirator was found guilty.
Should a US Senator convicted of a federal crime stay in the Senate? "I haven't really thought about it," Phil Murphy says.
— Christian Hetrick (@_Hetrick) September 6, 2017
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) also declined to say whether his colleague should step down.
“Whatever the verdict is we’ll deal with it at that time,” Manchin told CNN.