Newark, N.J. – Embattled U.S. Senator Robert Menendez vowed tonight “I’m not going anywhere” as he told a packed room of press and supporters he plans to fight charges brought against him by the U.S. Attorney of New Jersey today.
“I am outraged,” Menendez said. “I am grateful to live in a country where prosecutors’ mistakes can be corrected.” Recalling his days as an aide in the office of New Jersey state Senator William “Billy” Musto, Menendez told the crowd gathered at the Newark Penn Plaza Hilton he had worked with U.S. attorneys on a corruption case. “I wore a bulletproof vest,” he said.
Virtually every remark Menendez made was loudly applauded and cheered by the crowd of supporters, who significantly outnumbered the large press corps. “We support you, we support you” one woman called from the left side of the room.
Menendez said the U.S. attorneys “don’t know the difference between friendship and corruption,” referring to charges he used his political office to advance the interests of Dr. Salomon Melgen of Florida, a long-time friend. The indictment handed up today contains 14 counts of wrongdoing.
“No matter how long it takes to clear my name, I will do it,” he said. “I am outraged that they went forward with a wrong prosecution, and that criminal prosecutions will be used for political purposes.”
Nevertheless, the senator said, he will fight and he will prevail.
Menendez spoke for about five minutes, then switched to Spanish to translate and connect more directly with the large number of Spanish-speaking people in his audience. Of Cuban background, Menendez is known to have especially strong support among the Cuban-American population, which is a very high percentage in his home county of Hudson. All over the room people could be heard conversing and vigorously cheering the senator in Spanish.