WASHINGTON — Now charged with 18 federal counts, embattled Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., faces a mounting pressure campaign from his colleagues in Congress.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., will announce legislation Friday that would prohibit people charged with certain crimes from receiving classified information, implicitly targeting Menendez, who was charged with bribery, conspiring with foreign governments and other counts.

If approved by Congress, the bill — titled the Guarding the United States Against Reckless Disclosures Act, or GUARD Act for short — would apply to any federal official or candidate charged with compromising U.S. national security, acting as a foreign agent, obstructing an official proceeding or unlawfully retaining classified national defense information, according to a copy first shared with NBC News.

The bill could also apply to former President Donald Trump. In addition to members of Congress, Sherrill’s legislation would cover the president, the vice president, candidates for federal office who receive classified information, members of the military and employees of the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Postal Service.

Trump, who has been charged with mishandling classified information and with obstructing Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election results, will soon begin to receive intelligence briefings, as is customary for presidential nominees to ensure a smooth transition of power. It’s one of the reasons Sherrill is introducing the legislation now.

“We have a former president who has shown a long history of disclosing secrets to adversaries, trying to hide and destroy information, not being clear on what he’s held and is now under indictment for these infractions,” Sherrill said in an interview Wednesday. “And yet our intelligence community is supposed to start briefing him?

“This legislation seeks to remedy that and make sure that people who are under indictment cannot have access to state secrets,” she added.

Trump and Menendez have pleaded not guilty, and neither has yet gone to trial. But Sherrill, a former federal prosecutor and Navy pilot, believes neither man should have access to classified information in the meantime. 

Sherrill called on Menendez to resign hours after he was initially indicted in September and accused of taking lavish gifts in exchange for using his influence as the chair of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee at the time.

Menendez stepped down as chair in the fall but has rejected calls to resign from Congress from more than half of his Democratic Senate colleagues and the entire New Jersey House delegation, except for his son, Democratic Rep. Robert Menendez Jr.

“It has long been a concern of mine about keeping access to classified information from people who seem willing to give away state secrets or undermine our national security,” Sherrill said. “So of course when Menendez was charged with acting as a foreign agent — how someone like that could have access to classified information when he has already misused it in such a powerful position is mind-boggling to me.”

Her bill would allow majority votes in the House and the Senate to override it and allow access to sensitive information case by case.

Menendez’s most vocal critic, Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., introduced his own resolution to strip him of his committee assignments and ban him from receiving classified information after he continued to attend briefings on sensitive national security matters. But that legislation hasn’t gone anywhere. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described Menendez’s legal woes as “serious allegations” but has declined to call on him to step down.

Sherrill said she didn’t discuss her effort with Fetterman.

Despite growing criticism and increased scrutiny, Menendez announced this month that he would run for re-election as an independent if he is exonerated. He is scheduled to go on trial in May, and the independent filing deadline is June 4.

“At a time like this, when we have a former president like Trump trying to call into question a lot of the institutions of our government, a lot of our values, it’s very important that we have leaders in office that people can have faith in,” Sherrill said.

“I don’t think you can argue that anyone can have faith in Menendez, who has used his office to enrich himself, who has put his interests, in a very Trump-like way, quite frankly, ahead of the interests of the nation,” she said.

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