Washington — Indicted Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, announced Thursday that he won’t run in the Democratic primary as he faces allegations he traded his political influence for money, but said he could seek reelection as an independent if he’s exonerated.

“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 shared on YouTube.

Menendez was indicted on federal corruption charges in September and has been defiant against calls to resign, though he did step down from his powerful chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee. 

The charges allege Menendez and his wife, Nadine, accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes, including cash, furniture and gold bars, while using his power and influence to enrich and protect three New Jersey businessmen and benefit the governments of Egypt and Qatar. 

In the months since, superseding indictments alleged Menendez and his wife conspired to act as a foreign agent for Egypt and accepted expensive gifts in exchange for favorable comments about Qatar. The latest indictment unsealed in March accused the duo of obstructing the investigation into the scheme. 

Menendez and his wife have pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Their trial is set to begin in May.

Although Menendez has faced calls to resign or retire before, the indictment in this case brought the biggest threat to his political future, prompting a slew of New Jersey Democrats to call for his resignation, including Gov. Phil Murphy.

A fierce primary is already underway to replace Menendez in the Senate, with Rep. Andy Kim and New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy topping the field of contenders vying for the Democratic nomination. 

While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has stopped short of calling for Menendez to resign, he has said the “Senate has certain standards that we must live up to” and that he is “disappointed” that Menendez has not “lived up to those standards.” 

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