The Republican National Committee (RNC) is actively campaigning to ensure that Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez will resign if he is convicted of criminal charges.
The bribery and corruption trial begins Wednesday and presiding Judge William Walls has reportedly told possible jurors, “This is a serious case. It’s not a junky jeopardy matter that you see on TV in these supposed judge cases. This is real stuff.”
Though the New Jersey senator says he’s innocent and won’t be found guilty on the charges, USA Today reports that GOP insiders are preparing to apply enough heat to force Melendez to resign if he is convicted.
The RNC plan revolves around twisting the arms of Menendez’s Democrat friends like Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, senators who seek to be re-elected in states that voted for President Donald Trump and even a few possible presidential candidates lining up for 2020.
The advantage for the Republicans in getting a resignation, rather than allow Menendez to linger while a judge determines his sentence or the senator decides whether to appeal a potential guilty verdict, lies in New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He can appoint a temporary replacement senator while he still remains governor of the state until January 2018.
The result would be another Republican member in the Senate that would bring the GOP numbers there to 53. It would be a real gift because the Republicans haven’t won a Senate seat in New Jersey since then-President Nixon’s landslide in 1972.
If a guilty Melendez won’t resign, the Senate is empowered by the Constitution to expel him with a two-thirds majority — but that would only be possibleif 15 Democrats vote with their Republican adversaries.
If there is any precedent for the brewing storm, it can be found in the story of then-Sen. Harrison Williams who was also from New Jersey and who was found guilty of corruption in March 1981. He waited a full 10 months before deciding t leave office — just as his colleagues were on verge of removing him.
The RNC is running social media spots that recall how Democrats clamored for the resignation of Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008 when he fell to corruption charges.
Stevens continued to sit in the Senate until 2009 and the Justice Department reversed his conviction — declaring him a victim of prosecutorial misconduct.