Though it probably wasn't surprising to most of them, news of Sen. Bob Menendez's (D-N.J.) indictment caused ripples among Democrats in the Garden State and on Capitol Hill Friday, with some soon determining that the seriousness of the bribery charges against Menendez and his wife, Nadine, along with the evidence presented warranted a call for his resignation.
Among them were New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a number of Democratic members on the House side of the state legislature, and two of Menendez's Democratic colleagues in the U.S. Senate: John Fetterman (Pa.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio).
One powerful Democrat whose reaction to the Menendez indictment has been far more muted is Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who on Friday issued a short statement of praise for Menendez while noting that he believes Menendez deserves "due process and a fair trial":
“Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey. He has a right to due process and a fair trial.
“Senator Menendez has rightly decided to step down temporarily from his position as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee until the matter has been resolved.”
One would think this being Menendez's second indictment in ten years on allegations of bribery would warrant more of a strongly worded response from Schumer that wasn't quite so accommodating of his longtime Senate friend, especially considering Schumer's previous position on the "alleged pattern of criminal activity" of former President Donald Trump:
The fourth indictment of Donald Trump, just like the three which came before it, portrays a repeated pattern of criminal activity by the former president.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 15, 2023
From @RepJeffries and me: pic.twitter.com/rNWuBJo3c9
So having multiple indictments is supposed to be a sign of guilt, right? Or not - when it involves Democrats, I guess:
As a reminder, here's how Menendez's 2017 trial went down:
The last time Menendez was indicted in 2015, he was charged with receiving gifts and $660,000 in campaign contributions from a Florida eye doctor, Salomon Melgen, that helped him get reelected to the Senate in 2012. Menendez was accused of using his office to promote Melgen's business and personal interests with officials of President Barack Obama's administration.
Menendez argued the money and gifts such as luxury travel stemmed from their friendship rather than a criminal relationship. In 2017, Menendez’ corruption case ended in a mistrial after the jury could not reach a verdict and the government decided not to retry him.
Some legal experts have suggested that the case against Menendez this time around is much stronger than the 2015 case, and have predicted that a conviction is far more likely, though the embattled Senator is likely to use a defense in this trial similar to the one he used in his last one: The friendship defense.
In any event, while Schumer is right in one respect - people have the right to due process and a fair trial - for him that rule apparently only applies depending on the party affiliation of the person who has been accused. Not that this is a surprise, of course, but it's worth noting for the record all the same.