NEW YORK, Sept 27 (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of taking bribes from three New Jersey businessmen, as calls for his resignation from his fellow Democrats escalated.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan last week accused Menendez, 69, and his wife of accepting gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for the senator using his influence to aid Egypt’s government and interfere with law enforcement investigations of the businessmen.
Menendez entered the plea at a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona Wang in Manhattan. Wang said Menendez could be released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond. The senator will be required to surrender his personal passport, but may retain his official passport and travel abroad on official business.
His wife, Nadine Menendez, 56, and businessmen Jose Uribe, 56, and Fred Daibes, 66, also pleaded not guilty. A third businessman, Wael Hana, 40, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.
Menendez, one of two senators representing New Jersey, stepped down from his role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as required under his party’s rules. But on Monday he said he would stay in the Senate and fight the charges.