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Sen. Cory Booker calls for Sen. Bob Menendez’s resignation

The N.J. senator broke his silence, joining a chorus of other Democrats urging his colleague Menendez to resign.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker visits a potato farm in Elmer, Salem Co. last month.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker visits a potato farm in Elmer, Salem Co. last month.Read moreTom Gralish / Staff Photographer

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker is calling on Sen. Bob Menendez to resign in the wake of a federal bribery indictment against him, marking a dramatic break in what had been a close relationship between the two New Jersey Democrats.

Booker shifted from his silence regarding the Jersey Shore senator’s indictment last week in a new statement released Tuesday. Until now, he was one of two notable New Jersey Democrats who had not called on Menendez to step down, the other being Menendez’s son, U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez (D., N.J.) who has voiced his “unwavering confidence” in his father.

“Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost,” Booker said. “Senator Menendez has made these sacrifices in the past to serve. And in this case he must do so again. I believe stepping down is best for those Senator Menendez has spent his life serving.”

» READ MORE: John Fetterman calls on Menendez to resign, says he plans to return campaign donation in cash-stuffed envelopes

In the aftermath of the bribery indictment against Menendez, most senators initially stayed quiet. But by Tuesday evening, at least 17 senators had called for his resignation.

The Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in the Senate as it is, which elevates the importance of what happens to Menendez’s seat in what has traditionally been a reliably blue state. And senators have historically been cautious to call out fellow members in similar cases.

Booker was the most closely watched as Menendez’ counterpart. He has had a close relationship with Menendez and said in the past he considers the senior senator a mentor.

“I’ve found the allegations hard to reconcile with the person I know,” he said.

Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman led the growing number of calls for Menendez’s resignation — and criticized other senators for their silence on the matter. Since then, a host of other Democratic senators joined the chorus, including Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey on Tuesday morning.

At a rainy picket line in Langhorne where Casey visited with striking workers Tuesday afternoon, he briefly elaborated on his call for Menendez to step down.

”When I went through the detail and the specificity of that indictment, it was clear in my judgment ... that he was not upholding that trust,” he said. “That is apart from the question of guilt or innocence in a court of law; that’s for someone else to decide. I had to make a determination about public trust, and that’s what I rested my decision on.”

Others who called for the senator’s resignation include Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Montana Sen. Jon Tester. Menendez defied a growing number of calls for him to step down at a news conference Monday.

Booker — the seventh senator to call for Menendez’s resignation — said the indictment contained “shocking allegations of corruption and specific, disturbing details of wrongdoing.”

Back in 2018, Booker appeared as a character witness in Menendez’s corruption trial, which ended in a mistrial.

He said on the stand then: “It’s almost an understatement to say he was just a partner,” crediting Menendez with showing him the ropes in the chamber.