Senator Bob Menendez pushed back against federal corruption charges on Monday and reiterated that he had no intention of resigning, after he and his wife were indicted for allegedly taking bribes to help Egyptian businessmen as well as Cairo.
Mr Menendez, a senior Democrat, and his wife Nadine were charged on Friday with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from three businessmen, including $550,000 in cash, gold bullion and a Mercedes Benz.
In June 2022, US agents raided a safe-deposit box and the couple's home, allegedly finding cash stuffed in envelopes, closets and a safe.
“I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey’s senior senator,” Mr Menendez told reporters in his home state. He did not take any questions.
“For now, I remain focused on continuing to do the important work I do every day on behalf of the nine million people who call New Jersey home.”
According to federal prosecutors, Mr Menendez took bribes to help Egypt and the businessmen in their legal disputes with the US and New Jersey governments.
The indictment states that Mr Menendez also encouraged Cairo to approve businessman Wael Hana's monopoly over the import of halal meat into Egypt, “despite the fact that neither [Mr Hana] … nor his company, had experience with halal certification”.
Mr Menendez has faced calls from members of his own Democratic Party to resign, including from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who said the allegations were “deeply disturbing”.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a high-profile Democratic congresswoman, has also called on him to resign, as has fellow senator John Fetterman.
The chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee has stepped down from his role, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not asked him to resign from the closely divided chamber. He cannot be forced to resign.
"I'm going to be very clear: this is a serious matter," said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. "We see this as a serious matter, and we believe the senator stepping down from his chairmanship was the right thing to do."
Addressing allegations in the indictment that authorities found cash stuffed in envelopes and clothing at his home, Mr Menendez said the money came from his personal savings account and stemmed from his parents' fear of confiscation of funds from their time in Cuba.
“Now this may seem old fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal savings account based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years,” Mr Menendez said.
On Egypt, Mr Menendez said he has worked to hold countries, including Cairo, accountable for human rights abuses.
“If you look at my actions related to Egypt during the period described in this indictment, and throughout my whole career, my record is clear and consistent,” he said.
But prosecutors say he met Egyptian military and intelligence officials, passed along non-public information about employees at the US embassy in Cairo and ghostwrote a letter on behalf of Egypt asking his Senate colleagues to release a hold on $300 million worth of aid.