Embattled New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, the subject of a 39-page bribery and corruption indictment Friday, has long been known in D.C. circles as "corrupt" and should resign immediately, critics said Friday.
Menendez is facing resignation calls.with some citing his role as chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a serious conflict of interest given his indictment alleging untoward dealings with the Egyptian government. He temporarily stepped down from his chairmanship following Friday's federal indictment.
Richard Painter, a longtime ethics lawyer who served in the George W. Bush administration, told FOX News the congressman's reputation precedes him, and he needs to go permanently.
"We've been around the road here before with Senator Menendez. He was indicted and tried and he would have been convicted, but for a hung jury in 2017," Painter said. "Everybody in Washington has known that he was crooked for a very, very long time. People in the Democratic Party and elsewhere in New Jersey have known that he never should have been put in charge of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He never should have been run for office again, and he should resign immediately."
Menendez' previous corruption trial centered on donations, Caribbean trips and gifts from Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen.
Following his acquittal at that trial, Menendez held a tearful press conference outside the Newark federal courthouse in which he thanked allies for believing him and promised political enemies he wouldn't forget them
Menendez is also up for re-election in 2024, and New Jersey Republicans pounced on the news of his indictment.
Mendham Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner, who is vying for the seat in the GOP primary, dubbed him "Gold Bar Bob" and said the senator has been "enriching himself" while "impoverishing New Jerseyans."
A Republican has not won a U.S. Senate seat since Sen. Frank Case's landslide win in 1972, though former Gov. Chris Christie appointed his attorney general, Jeff Chiesa, to the seat vacated upon the 2013 death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
Then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker won the seat in the ensuing election.
At least one House Democrat has publicly called for Menendez to resign since the indictment. "Yes I am a Democrat and so is Senator Menendez, but based on what I have seen I am disappointed…" Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota told CNN.
Former Biden campaign surrogate Kevin Walling also called for Menendez' ouster, telling FOX News, "This guy has no business [serving] with these charges."
"These allegations are damning. The evidence presented in that indictment. Speaking as a Democrat, you have gold bars, a car that was given to this senator," he said Friday on "America Reports."
On FOX News, "Fox & Friends" co-host Brian Kilmeade noted that Menendez often attacked former President Donald Trump over alleged corrupt ties to foreign countries like Russia.
In a 2019 floor speech, Menendez raised "the entirely legitimate question of whether Donald Trump could be compromised by the Russian government."
"It’s a question that never before could we even imagine thinking about an American President, let alone saying aloud on the floor of the Senate," Menendez said.
Kilmeade noted the irony of Friday's indictment and said it proves Menendez is a hypocrite.
"He might be very much compromised to Egypt and benefiting financially with using diplomatic aid. And a lot of people thought [the Newark] indictment would destroy his career. He gets out on a hung jury, hardly a verdict of innocence, and he was able to get six more years," Kilmeade added.
Christie, who prior to his governorship served as the U.S. Attorney in Newark under Bush, said Menendez' new corruption case is "much different" than the previous one.
In an interview with "America's Newsroom," he cited gold bars allegedly found in his home and his second wife's safe deposit box.
"It is going to be very difficult for a United States Senator to explain why he has $480,000 in cash stuffed in jackets with his name on it in his home," Christie said, adding that he prosecuted 130 similar cases while U.S. attorney.