Menendez and Salomon Melgen, 61, entered not guilty pleas one day after they were indicted on charges of conspiracy, bribery and fraud. The longtime New Jersey senator's relationship with Melgen, a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist, has been under scrutiny for years.
In a 95-page indictment unsealed Wednesday, federal prosecutors claimed Menendez accepted nearly $1 million in gifts, expensive vacations and campaign contributions from Melgen, and in return, used his political influence to advance the doctor's business interests and help his girlfriends attain travel visas.
Speaking briefly outside a federal courthouse in downtown Newark, Menendez once again vowed to fight the charges.
“For nearly three years, the
In addition to his brief statement in Newark, Menendez also touted his achievements and previous role as a witness in a federal corruption case in New Jersey in a two-minute video released Thursday morning.
"It saddens me that our system of justice has already failed at its most basic level, by leaking information and peddling rumors," he said, referring to the allegations in the indictment as "completely false."
Menendez will not relinquish his Senate seat, but said Wednesday he would temporarily step down as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.