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Sen. Bob Menendez will appear in court in his bribery case as he rejects calls to resign

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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez is due in court Wednesday to answer to charges that he used his powerful post to secretly advance Egyptian interests and do favors for New Jersey businessmen in exchange for bribes of cash and gold bars.

The New Jersey Democrat will make his first appearance in a federal court in Manhattan amid growing calls from colleagues that he resign from Congress.

A defiant Menendez — who was forced to step down as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee after the indictment was brought last week — says allegations that he abused his power to line his own pockets are baseless. He has said he's confident he will be exonerated and has no intention of leaving the Senate.

It's the second corruption case in a decade against Menendez, whose last trial involving different allegations ended with jurors failing to reach a verdict in 2017.

Fellow New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker on Tuesday joined the calls for Menendez to resign, saying in a statement that the indictment contains ”shocking allegations of corruption and specific, disturbing details of wrongdoing.” Around half of Senate Democrats have now said that Menendez should step down, including several running for reelection next year.

Also set to be arraigned Wednesday is Menendez's wife, Nadine, who prosecutors say played a key role in collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes from three New Jersey businessmen seeking help from the powerful lawmaker. An attorney for Nadine Menendez has said she also denies the allegations and will fight the charges.

Two of the businessmen — Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes — are also expected to be arraigned. The third man, Wael Hana, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges including conspiracy to commit bribery. Hana was arrested at New York’s Kennedy airport Tuesday after returning voluntarily from Egypt to face the charges, and was ordered freed pending trial.

Authorities say they found nearly $500,000 in cash — much of it hidden in clothing and closets — as well as more than $100,000 in gold bars in a search of the New Jersey home Menendez, 69, shares with his wife.

In his first public remarks since the indictment, Menendez said Monday that the cash found in his home was drawn from his personal savings accounts over the years, and which he kept on hand for emergencies.

One of the envelopes full of cash found at his home, however, bore Daibes' DNA and was marked with the real estate developer's return address, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors say Hana promised to put Menendez's wife on his company's payroll in a low-or-no-show job in exchange for Menendez using his influential post to facilitate foreign military sales and financing to Egypt. Prosecutors allege Hana also paid $23,000 toward her home mortgage, wrote $30,000 checks to her consulting company, promised her envelopes of cash, sent her exercise equipment and bought some of the gold bars that were found in the couple’s home.

The indictment alleges repeated actions by Menendez to benefit Egypt, despite U.S. government misgivings over the country’s human rights record that in recent years have prompted Congress to attach restrictions on aid.

Prosecutors, who detailed meetings and dinners between Menendez and Egyptian officials, say Menendez gave sensitive U.S. government information to Egyptian officials and ghost wrote a letter to fellow senators encouraging them to lift a hold on $300 million in aid to Egypt, one of the top recipients of U.S. military support.

Prosecutors have accused Menendez of pressuring a U.S. agricultural official to stop opposing a lucrative deal that gave Hana's company a monopoly over certifying that imported meat met religious standards.

Prosecutors also allege Menendez tried to interfere in criminal investigations involving associates. In one case, he pushed to install a federal prosecutor in New Jersey whom Menendez believed he could influence to derail a criminal case against Daibes, prosecutors allege.

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Richer reported from Boston.