Pennsylvania Rep. Summer Lee has become the latest prominent Democrat to call on New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez to resign following his indictment on bribery charges Friday.
Menendez was accused along with his wife Nadine and three businessmen over a “corrupt relationship” that saw Menendez exchange political favors— including aiding the Egyptian government— for kickbacks such as cash, gold, and help with a mortgage payment.
“Senator Menendez must resign,” Lee said in a statement released Monday. “Corruption is corruption. Bribery is bribery. We can’t talk about holding Thomas and Alito accountable for selling out our freedoms for luxury vacations and private jet flights if we fail to hold a senator accountable for selling out his chairmanship to a dictator gifting gold bars and cash to keep military aid flowing to Egypt as its government violates human rights.”
Lee has been outspoken in calling out corruption in the Supreme Court. Her statement Monday comes the day after she spoke on MSNBC about a ProPublica article, also released Friday, revealing that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had attended at least two political fundraisers organized by the Koch network.
During Sunday night’s interview, host Mehdi Hasan also asked Lee about the fact that only one other senator—John Fetterman of Pennsylvania—had called on Menendez to resign.
At the time, Lee stopped short of calling for his resignation herself, saying that the people who knew him in the Senate needed to speak out. However, she also said it was important that public servants hold themselves to higher standards, especially as the Republican Party continues the descent into extremism that escalated on January 6, 2021.
“We need to be clear about the types of people who should represent us, about the standards by which we should hold them, about what they are allowed to do, their conduct. We need a code of conduct for the Supreme Court, and we also need to adhere to our own conduct, whether we’re in the Senate, or the House, or anywhere else,” she said.
As of Monday, Lee adds her name to a small but growing list calling for Menendez’s resignation including Fetterman and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Jeff Jackson (D-N.C.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Mikie Sherill (D-N.J.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), and Andy Kim (D-N.J.)
Menendez, meanwhile, said Monday that he thought the calls for his resignation were a mistake, as The Hill reported.
“The allegations leveled against me are just that: allegations,” Menendez said while speaking to supporters and reporters in Union City, New Jersey. “I recognized that this will be the biggest fight yet. But as I have stated through this whole process, I firmly believe that when all of the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I will still be New Jersey’s senior senator.”
However, while Lee acknowledged that Menendez had not yet been found guilty, more was at stake than his career.
“Menendez is of course owed due process, but the American people are owed trust in our institutions,” she said. “Our fight against right-wing fascism depends on that trust.”
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