Embattled Sen. Bob Menendez says he won’t run in Democratic primary for Senate seat but leaves open running as an independent

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey announced Thursday he will not run for reelection in the Democratic primary for his US Senate seat, but left open the possibility that he could run as an independent candidate.

“I will not file for the Democratic primary this June. I am hopeful that my exoneration will take place this summer and allow me to pursue my candidacy as an independent Democrat in the general election,” Menendez, who is facing bribery and obstruction of justice charges, said in a video posted online.

The news comes as Menendez had faced calls to resign, including from a number of his Senate Democratic colleagues, as a result of the charges.

Menendez was up for reelection this year and would have faced a highly competitive Democratic primary had he entered the race. Tammy Murphy, the wife of New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and the state’s first lady, is running. Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey is also running and has been endorsed by Sen. John Fetterman of neighboring Pennsylvania, who has been the most vocal Senate Democrat calling for Menendez to resign.

Menendez is facing bribery charges for allegedly taking steps to benefit the governments of Egypt and Qatar and help several New Jersey businessmen and receiving in exchange gold bars, cash, a luxury car and Formula One Grand Prix race tickets. Menendez has forcefully denied the charges against him and has said that he will prove his innocence while claiming that he is being persecuted by prosecutors.

Menendez pleaded not guilty last year to a charge alleging he conspired to act as a foreign agent of Egypt. In January, federal prosecutors alleged in a superseding indictment that Menendez accepted gifts from Qatar as part of a yearslong corruption scheme, with the Gulf nation joining Egypt as another foreign country the New Jersey Democrat is accused of helping while in office.

Menendez stepped down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year when he was initially charged but has rejected calls to resign from his US Senate seat.

Menendez has criticized colleagues who have called for his resignation in the wake of the indictments, and has said in a floor speech that, “They would deny me due process and undermine the fundamental principle of our law, that in America, you are innocent until proven otherwise. by a jury of your peers.”

In November 2023, Menendez defended attending a classified briefing on Ukraine, insisting he had a right to get the classified information as he pushed back on the charges against him.

“I’m a United States senator, I have my security credentials, and an accusation is just that. It’s not proof of anything,” he told CNN’s Manu Raju at the time.

Menendez has served in the Senate since 2006 – and this is not the first time he has faced a legal battle.

Menendez was charged by federal prosecutors in 2015 with conspiracy, bribery and honest services fraud relating to allegedly abusing the power of his office.

At the time, prosecutors said the senator accepted more than $600,000 in political contributions, a luxurious hotel suite at the Park Hyatt in Paris, and free rides on a private jet from a wealthy ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen, in exchange for political favors.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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