Senator Menendez Concerned
Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee POOL via AFP / BONNIE CASH/BONNIE CASH

Embattled U.S. Senator Bob Menendez announced that he won't run for reelection in the Democratic primary. The decision comes as he faces corruption probes, following formal accusations that he took bribes in exchange for political favors.

Should he be exonerated, he added, he could pursue a candidacy as an independent. "I will not file for the Democratic primary this June. I am hopeful that my exoneration will take place this summer and allow me to pursue my candidacy as an independent Democrat in the general election," Menendez said in a video published on YouTube.

The almost 10-minute-long-video is mostly a recap of his 19 years as a senator for New Jersey. But speaking about the allegations, Menendez said that even though he's "innocent and will prove so," they won't allow him to "have that type of dialogue and debate with political opponents that have already made it the cornerstone of their campaign."

The announcement follows several calls for resignation from fellow Democrats, including several lawmakers and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. Menendez stepped down as chair of the Foreign Relations committee but refused to leave his seat.

Menendez faces an array of charges alleging that he and his wife, Nadine, accepted bribes in the form of cash, gold bars and even a luxury car, to help and protect three local businessmen and benefit the governments of Qatar and Egypt. They have also been accused of obstructing the investigation in the case, which is set to go to trial in May. Both him and his wife have pleaded not guilty.

Menendez stands formally accused of working as unregistered foreign agent of Egypt, as well as on behalf of the three different businessmen, seeking a range of favors, including seeking more lenient rulings in criminal investigations.

One of those businessmen, Jose Uribe, entered a plea agreement in the case in early march. Uribe, who faced seven charges, including conspiracy to commit bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion, was also accused of giving Nadine Menendez a Mercedez-Benz.

In January, Menendez was also accused of introducing a member of the Qatari royal family member and prominent figure in the country's investment fund to Fred Daibes, another of the New Jersey businessmen, before the company invested millions in his real estate project.

Similarly to the accusations regarding his actions as a foreign agent on behalf of Egypt, Menendez accepted cash and gold bars in exchange for introducing the member of the Qatari royal family to Daibes.

The charges against him prompted a group of legislators to introduce a bill aimed at strengthening federal laws on bribery.

The bill, first reported by CBS News, was introduced by Democratic Representative Angie Craig and has the support of Republican Nancy Mace. Craig's bill makes an explicit reference to Menendez's case when arguing in favor of expanding the statute.

"Senator Menendez' case is an urgently needed reminder of the risks weak bribery laws pose to our democracy and national security. My bipartisan bill changes that to ensure public officials who abuse their office can be held accountable," said Craig in a statement after introducing the project.

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