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April 3, 2015 1:21 am

Jewish Group Defends, Will Continue to ‘Work Closely’ With Sen. Menendez

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez at the 2014 AIPAC Policy, on March 4, 2014. Photo: Algemeiner.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez at the 2014 AIPAC Policy Conference. The US Senator was indicted on Wednesday. Photo: Algemeiner.

A major Jewish group on Thursday spoke up on behalf of Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) a day after the lawmaker was indicted by a federal grand jury in Newark, NJ.

“Regarding this week’s news of a federal indictment, unless and until the government proves its case, the Senator is presumed to be innocent,” the American Jewish Committee said in a statement. “We, therefore, intend to continue to work with him closely, as we have throughout his tenure. His leadership on pressing policy issues is too important to be silenced on anything less than proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“From AJC’s vantage point, our nation has been strengthened significantly in so many meaningful ways by the Senator’s long record of public service,” the statement added.

Menendez was charged on Wednesday with accepting nearly $1 million in gifts and campaign donations from longtime friend Dr. Salomon Melgen in exchange for political favors, according to The Associated Press.  The senator’s indictment contains 14 counts including bribery, conspiracy and false statements. Charges were also brought against the Florida doctor.

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The New Jersey Democrat claimed his innocence soon after the charges were announced.

“I have always conducted myself in accordance with the law. I have always stood up for what I believe is right,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday night. “I fight for issues I believe in, the people I represent, and the safety and security of this country every single day. That’s who I am and I am proud of what I have accomplished and I am not going anywhere.”

Menendez said the charges brought against him were motivated by politics and “intended to silence me.” He claimed prosecutors “don’t know the difference between friendship and corruption and have chosen to twist my duties as a senator and my friendship into something that is improper.”

Over the past years, Menendez has been a leading Democratic critic of President Obama’s foreign policy, specifically his deal-making with Iran over the country’s nuclear program. The timing of the charges have raised eyebrows, coming just weeks after a strong speech before pro-Israel lobby AIPAC  in which Menendez pledged to fight for a better deal with Iran.

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