Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania said on Friday that he’s “daring” indicted Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, a fellow Democrat, to run for reelection and said he thinks it’s “outrageous” that Menendez still has the right to attend classified briefings on Capitol Hill.
“I’m daring Menendez to run for reelection,” Fetterman told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead,” saying, “I don’t know why he’d want to be a part of that, but if he does run it doesn’t – he’s a non-factor.”
Menendez is up for reelection this year, and Fetterman recently endorsed Democratic US Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey as a primary challenger against him.
“He has the right to have his day in court, absolutely,” Fetterman said of Menendez, “but he doesn’t have the right to necessarily be a senator, and he definitely doesn’t have the right to be in classified briefings that involve nations that he is now credibly accused of being a foreign agent of. It’s outrageous and I truly can’t understand why anybody would be okay with that.”
Menendez is facing bribery and corruption 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.
CNN has reached out to Menendez’s office for comment on Fetterman’s latest remarks.
Menendez has criticized colleagues who have called for his resignation in the wake of the indictments. In a Senate floor speech earlier this month, Menendez said that he is “alarmed that the greatest and most ardent defenders of the Constitution in this body are among the most vociferous and calling for my resignation. 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.”
Fetterman was the first of his colleagues to call for Menendez to resign and has been by far the most outspoken Democrat to criticize the New Jersey senator and call for accountability. Fetterman has introduced a resolution that would prohibit senators charged with certain criminal offenses – including acting as a foreign agent – from receiving classified information, including through classified briefings for senators.
“We should have chucked that sleazeball long ago. But now we’re looking to move my resolution to the floor and I’m going to call on unanimous consent … so we can stop any senator that is being accused of being a foreign agent attending classified briefings,” Fetterman told CNN’s Manu Raju this week.
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.
This week, Menendez attended a classified briefing in a secure room in the Capitol complex with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. At one point, when Menendez left the room briefly to go to the floor for a vote, he declined to answer CNN’s questions about whether it’s appropriate for him to be there. “Look to my past answers,” he said.
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.
CNN’s Ted Barrett, Sam Fossum, Kara Scannell and Nicki Brown contributed to this report.
For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com