WASHINGTON (Reuters) - United States Senator Robert Menendez said on Wednesday he was outraged at the US Justice Department's move to indict him on corruption charges and vowed "he will be vindicated".
"I am outraged that prosecutors at the Justice Department were tricked into starting this investigation three years ago with false allegations by those who have a political motive to silence me. But I will not be silenced," Sen Menendez told a crowd of journalists and cheering supporters at a televised appearance in Newark, New Jersey.
Saying he had always acted in accordance with the law, Sen Menendez said: "At the end of the day, I will be vindicated and they will be exposed".
Sen Menendez will temporarily step aside as ranking member, or top Democrat, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in the wake of his indictment on corruption charges, two Senate aides said on Wednesday.
Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and Benjamin Cardin are the next most senior Democrats on the influential panel.
It was not yet clear who would be named as Sen Menendez's replacement, although Sen Boxer, from California, is believed to be concentrating on environmental issues in her last two years as a senator before retiring.
Sen Boxer is ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Aides to Sen Menendez and Republican Senator Bob Corker, the foreign relations panel's chairman, declined to comment, as did aides to Sen Boxer and Sen Cardin.
A move by Sen Menendez to step aside as ranking member would remove one of the Senate's most hawkish Democrats from an influential position in the realm of foreign affairs.
The New Jersey lawmaker has co-authored legislation that would tighten sanctions to increase pressure on Iran during talks on curbing its nuclear program, and another measure that would force President Barack Obama to submit any nuclear deal with Tehran for congressional approval.
Mr Obama has threatened to veto both measures, saying they threaten the talks.
Sen Menendez, the son of immigrants from Cuba, also opposes Mr Obama's moves toward normalizing relations with Havana, saying the island nation's communist government must come further on human rights.