Bribery Charges Force US Senator Menendez to Step Aside

WASHINGTON - A veteran US senator has temporarily stepped down as head of the chamber's powerful foreign relations committee as he battles bribery charges.

Justice department prosecutors allege Robert Menendez and his wife (see the photo) accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for aid to Egypt's government. The couple have denied the charges.

The embattled senator has rejected calls from fellow Democrats back in his home state of New Jersey to resign his seat.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said Menendez decided to step down as chairman of the influential committee "until the matter has been resolved".

It is not the first time that Menendez, 69, who has served in Congress since 2006, has had to give up the coveted post on the foreign relations panel. He also stepped down in 2015 after being indicted in New Jersey on charges that he had accepted bribes from a Florida eye doctor. That case ended in a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, who took over as the committee's leading Democrat at the time, is expected again to temporarily ascend to fill the vacancy.

Menendez and his spouse, Nadine Arslanian, are accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold, payments towards a home mortgage and a luxury vehicle from three New Jersey businessmen.
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