US Senator Bob Menendez on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to charges of taking bribes from three New Jersey businessmen, as calls for his resignation from his fellow Democrats escalated.
Federal prosecutors last week accused Mr Menendez, 69, and his wife Nadine of accepting more than $550,000 in cash and gold bars in exchange for the senator using his position to help the Egyptian government and interfere with law enforcement investigations into the businessmen.
Mr Menendez spoke in court only when each defendant stood to acknowledge that they understood the charges against them.
A lawyer entered the plea for Mr Menendez at a hearing before US magistrate judge Ona Wang in Manhattan, the Associated Press reported.
His wife, Nadine Menendez, 56, businessmen Jose Uribe, 56, and Fred Daibes, 66, also pleaded not guilty. A third businessman, Wael Hana, 40, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.
Mr Menendez has also been accused of encouraging Cairo to approve Mr Hana's monopoly on halal meat imports to Egypt, even though neither Mr Hana nor his company had experience with halal certification.
The senator was ordered released on a $100,000 bond. He must surrender any personal passports but will be allowed to keep an official passport that allows him to travel outside the US for government business.
The judge ordered him not to have contact outside of the presence of lawyers with his co-defendants, except for his wife.
He also cannot have contact outside of the presence of lawyers with members of his Senate staff, Foreign Relations Committee staff or political advisers who have personal knowledge about the facts of the case. It is unknown how those restrictions would affect his work.
He has stepped down from his position as chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, though he has thus far remained defiant in the face of calls for him to resign as senator.
More than half of US Democratic senators have called for his resignation to date.
Among those calling for his resignation was New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker, who was a character witness for Mr Menendez in a previous case.
“The details of the allegations against Senator Menendez are of such a nature that the faith and trust of New Jerseyans, as well as those he must work with in order to be effective, have been shaken to the core,” Mr Booker said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has thus far refrained from making any such call.
The second highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Richard Durbin, called for him to resign on Wednesday.
“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 said on Monday.
The federal indictment included images of gold bars and cash that were seized from Mr Menendez's home.
He claimed the money came from his personal savings account.
Mr Menendez was twice investigated by federal prosecutors before his latest indictment. He has never been convicted.