WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Bob Menendez took a business-as-usual approach Monday when he returned to Congress for the first time since his April 1 indictment on federal corruption charges.
The New Jersey Democrat spoke with reporters in the Capitol about Iran's nuclear program, and voted on a routine judicial nomination. He spent several minutes on the Senate floor, chatting amiably with colleagues. Several shook his hand, smiled and patted his shoulder.
Prosecutors say Menendez used his office to help a wealthy friend who had given him gifts and campaign donations for years.
Menendez may have eased his return to Washington by sharply denying the charges during the recess. In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," he said, "When all of the facts are known, I know that I will be vindicated and we will win."
Still, the charges are taking a toll, as will be apparent Tuesday. A colleague will take Menendez's former seat as the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee when it debates a contentious proposal to give Congress a say in a pending international agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program.
Menendez surrendered the leadership post after the indictment.
Among those giving Menendez a warm handshake and backslap Monday was the committee's Republican chairman, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.