Published September 27, 2023
The buzzards are circling Bob Menendez as he limps away from his federal indictment last week. To date, the New Jersey politician is resisting calls from more than half of his fellow Democratic senators and a host of officials from his state party to resign. Menendez is right to ignore them.
Menendez might be a crook, but like all defendants, he deserves his day in court. An indictment is nothing more than the prosecution’s opening argument, and nothing in that document should be automatically accepted as true. The specific details — FBI agents say they found nearly $500,000 in cash stuffed in the senator’s clothes, closet and a safe in his home, along with gold bars he allegedly received for doing favors for Egyptian nationals — are sensational. But only a trial can establish whether they are proof of illegal behavior.
Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.