Menendez cautions nuclear treaty withdrawal, encourages Booker’s bid

New Jersey’s senior U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez says he’s had several chats with junior Sen. Cory Booker about running for president. He says — not to take anything away from other Democrats who have announced or plan to — but the moment is right for Booker.

“We cannot continue in tribal battles at the end of the day. So will Cory Booker stand up to a Donald Trump? Well, we saw that in the Kavanaugh nomination hearings that he’ll stand up for principle and fight,” said Menendez. “By the same token, we saw him work together with Republicans to try and get critical legislation, critical criminal justice reform is only the latest iteration of that. So someone who can bring people together with a common cause, and at this moment in our nation’s history it’s critically important, and that’s why I’m thrilled that he has decided to run in the Democratic primary for president and I think the nation will be well served by him.”

Menendez spoke at a hastily called news conference in Union City at the Four Star Diner. While it was serving lunch, Menendez was serving caution about the Trump administration suspending the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia — a Reagan-era agreement covering ground missiles with a range up to 3,100 miles. Menendez is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“I do blame Russia for its violations of the treaty. There’s no doubt that Russia has violated this treaty, and in that respect the Trump administration is right to call them out. Where I disagree with them is precipitously leaving the treaty vs. leading an international effort to get Russia back into compliance. What we need is compliance, not for everybody to talk away and start a new nuclear arms race. The world can’t afford that,” Menendez said.

Menendez is looking to Tuesday’s State of the Union Address where he anticipates hearing the plan for border security and how the president will differentiate himself from his military and intelligence advisers on troop withdrawal, Syria, Isis and Afghanistan.