New Jersey voters do not want Sen. Bob Menendez to stick around if he’s convicted of the 14 felony charges he’s facing in court. Prosecutors say Menendez used his congressional office to curry favors, sway criminal investigations, and lobby the State Department to get U.S. visas for his married friend’s alleged girlfriends. In exchange, his wealthy eye-doctor friend, Salomon Melgen, flew the Democratic Senator aboard his private plane and let him stay at his luxurious vacation home in the Dominican Republic. Melgen has also given more than $750,000 to Menendez in campaign contributions and donations to his Political Action Committee.
Menendez allegedly intervened in an $8.9 million billing dispute between his friend and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just six days after his wealthy benefactor donated $300,000 to the Democratic senator’s re-election efforts in 2012, during which Menendez was running unopposed.
If Menendez is found guilty, 84 percent of likely New Jersey voters say Menendez should resign from office, according to a new USA Today poll. Those numbers don’t get much better among Democratic voters, either—77 percent say he should leave Washington if he’s convicted.
If he does resign from office, Republican Gov. Chris Christie could choose Menendez’s replacement—and that would likely alter the political makeup of the U.S. Senate.
Congressional Democrats have largely stayed silent about the whole affair. Sen. Kamala Harris, who is rumored to be eyeing a 2020 presidential bid, has been giving everyone the silent treatment.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) refuses to answer if ‘convicted felon’ should be in Senate — 10 times pic.twitter.com/wHeiGThS5t
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) September 11, 2017
Sen. Chuck Schumer defended his colleague earlier this month, saying, “Senator Menendez is issuing a spirited defense. We all believe in the presumption of innocence in this country, and Senator Menendez is fighting very hard, and we respect that greatly.”