While concerns about Rep. George Santos’ income, campaign spending, and rags-to-riches life tale grew, he appeared to have a Teflon-like resilience to consequences for months.
Republican Santos, who is serving his first term and represents Long Island and Queens, made a number of statements on the House floor and seemed to enjoy the attention he was receiving. Just one month ago, he declared his candidature for reelection and attempted to use his vote to influence House Republican leadership on a controversial debt ceiling issue.
Santos, however, faced penalties on Wednesday that might be challenging to avoid. He was arrested after being charged with 13 charges of wire fraud, money laundering, stealing from the government, and lying on federal disclosure forms.
Santos entered a not guilty plea to all charges when he appeared in front of the judge and a large crowd of reporters in a federal courthouse in Central Islip. Santos, 34, cut a recognisable figure in his signature ensemble of a blue jacket over a sweater while sitting up straight and crossing his arms in front of him. He was pleasant and deferential.
His tone, however, shifted when he was in front of a crowd of press reporters and onlookers, some of whom were waving signs that said simply “Lies.” The truth is, this is a witch hunt, he exclaimed from behind a pair of Ray-Bans.
Speaking to reporters, he insisted that the charges against him were made for political reasons and that he would eventually vindicate his name.
“I’m going to fight my battle, and I’m going to deliver,” he declared.
A congressman’s fortunes took a sharp swing after being indicted by federal authorities. He went from being a Republican resurgence poster child to a scandal-riddled political punching bag.
Santos, according to the prosecution, took part in three different scams. Indictment’s main claims of corruption in Santos’ electoral campaign are its main subject. Authorities believe that in 2022, Santos and an unidentified associate requested at least $50,000 in donations for a project they called a super PAC. Prosecutors claim that Santos kept the money for personal expenses including fancy apparel and credit card payments.
Santos is also charged in the indictment with filing and receiving more than $24,000 in bogus pandemic unemployment benefits while he was working and with making knowing false claims on financial disclosure forms in an effort to deceive the public and the House of Representatives.
Santos already has a low standing in Congress, so the accusations are unlikely to improve it. Santos said he had no intention of resigning and will continue to run for reelection even if the indictment prompted some further rank-and-file Republicans to join calls for his resignation.
The majority of House Republican leaders endorsed Santos’ stance on Wednesday, despite House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s declaration that he would not support Santos’ reelection campaign. These leaders are in charge of an extremely narrow Republican majority and are facing an impending battle over the debt ceiling.
McCarthy remarked, “Santos has a lot going on.” “I believe he has other priorities in life besides seeking reelection.”
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, the House majority leader, stated that “he was already removed from all his committees.” Although there is a presumption of innocence in America, the allegations are significant. He will have to deal with the legal system.
Santos was freed after posting a $500,000 bond that was guaranteed by three unnamed parties. His travel will be limited to New York, Washington, and locations nearby; other travels require prior approval. He is scheduled to appear in court again on June 30.