Manchin says decision to step down between Menendez and people of New Jersey

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday broke with a number of his Democratic colleagues and declined to call on Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) to step down following his federal indictment on bribery and corruption charges.

“This is between the people of New Jersey and Sen. Bob Menendez,” Manchin said on Tuesday. 

When pressed on whether Menendez should step down, Manchin repeated, “that’s between them.” 

His sentiment represents a modest departure from a growing number of Democrats who have called for Menendez to resign following the indictment. 

As of Tuesday evening, nearly two dozen Democratic senators have called for Menendez’s resignation. Notably, that list included Menendez’s junior senator from New Jersey and close ally, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and chief of Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.). 

Some Republicans in the Senate have struck a different note. Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) both described the charges as serious but expressed a similar sentiment as Manchin’s, saying the decision should be left to a jury or to voters of New Jersey.

Menendez is facing allegations that he accepted bribes, including in cash, gold bars and a luxury car, in exchange for using his influence as a senator and Senate Foreign Relations chairman to benefit New Jersey businessmen and the government of Egypt. 

Menendez has stepped down as chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in keeping with Senate Democrats’ protocol that dictates senators under indictment must step down from committee chair posts. But he has continued to resist calls for him to resign from his colleagues, maintaining that he is innocent. 

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