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Santos Not Sure He’ll Win Reelection After Charges: Live Updates

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Less than five months after it was revealed that George Santos invented pretty much everything about his life, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have charged him with fraud, money laundering, and making false statements to Congress. On Wednesday morning, he was taken into federal custody ahead of a court appearance this afternoon. Below are the latest updates.

‘It makes no sense that in four months, five months, I’m indicted’

Santos emerged from the courthouse following his arraignment on Wednesday afternoon to a chaotic scrum of press and protesters. As he stepped in front of the dozens of microphones, Santos seemed harried but nonetheless defiant.

“This is the beginning of the ability for me to address and defend myself. We have an indictment. We have the information that the government wants to come after me on, and I’m going to comply. I’ve been complying throughout this entire process,” he said.

Despite the severity of the charges against him, Santos maintained his innocence, telling reporters that he was being unfairly targeted. The congressman attempted to invoke the speculation of wrongdoing around the Biden family but was booed by protesters surrounding him.

“The reality is it’s a witch hunt, because it makes no sense that in four months, five months, I’m indicted,” Santos said.

Santos was asked about the allegation that he’d falsely received pandemic-era unemployment benefits despite prosecutors saying he had a job that paid $120,000 per year. “This is inaccurate information, and I will get to clear my name on this,” Santos said, claiming that his employment had changed during that period of time.

Santos said that he still intends to run for reelection and has no plans to resign.

“I will prove myself innocent, and then we’ll move from there, and reelection is a very far time away from now,” he said.

When asked by a reporter if Santos thought he would win his bid next year, he appeared to shrug. “That’s not up for me to know. Elections are very tricky, and it’s up to the people. I trust them to decide what’s best for them,” he said.

Santos pleads not guilty

Santos entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment Wednesday afternoon a federal courthouse on Long Island, the Associated Press reports. He was released on on $500,000 bond, with his next court appearance scheduled for June 30.

He’s accused of fashion-related thefts before

This is not the first time that Santos has been accused of committing crimes to support his designer tastes.

As Intelligencer’s Nia Prater wrote, Santos has faced claims of thefts from a variety of people before, ranging from former roommates in Queens to a store clerk in Brazil:

In 2008, when Santos was living in Brazil, he wrote checks stolen from an elderly man to purchase $1,300 in shoes and clothing from a Rio de Janeiro store. Earlier this year, Santos reached a deal with Brazilian prosecutors to confess to the crime and pay damages to the victim, a store clerk he defrauded.

Read the indictment

Santos allegedly defrauded campaign contributors to pay for designer clothes and more

A 13-count indictment was unsealed on Wednesday morning revealing a dizzying litany of charges against Santos. He faces seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, which said Santos had surrendered earlier that morning and was placed under arrest.

“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in a statement. “Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself.

According to the indictment, Santos instructed an unnamed Queens-based political consultant to ask for contributions to be directed to a company controlled by Santos, which was not registered as a super-PAC. Santos allegedly lied to that consultant (who is not named or charged) about the company and the true purpose of the donations. Emails sent by the consultant to contributors stated falsely that their donations would be spent “directly on supporting George and his election” or “to purchase ads supporting George Santos.” However, according to authorities, their money instead went toward making “cash withdrawals, personal purchases of luxury designer clothing, credit card payments, a car payment, payments on personal debts,” and bank transfers to Santos associates.

Santos is also accused of defrauding the federal government by falsely applying for and receiving $24,744 worth of pandemic-related unemployment benefits when he was, in fact, employed. Prosecutors say that during this time period, he was working as a regional director for a Florida-based investment firm, where he earned an annual salary of $120,000.

Santos is also charged with making fraudulent statements to the House of Representatives by allegedly misrepresenting his income on his official disclosure forms.

McCarthy says Santos should remain in Congress, for now

Santos was spotted in House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office on Tuesday before Santos drove to New York to surrender to authorities. ABC News reports Santos told McCarthy he would be charged, but McCarthy professed ignorance about his member’s legal predicament.

McCarthy then did some doublespeak when it came to whether Santos should stay in the House, where Republicans hold just a five-seat majority. When asked about Santos’s future, McCarthy told CNN, “I’ll look at the charges.” He told Punchbowl that Santos should remain in Congress as the case works its way through the courts. “If a person is indicted, they’re not on committees. They have the right to vote, but they have to go to trial,” McCarthy said.

Fellow Republicans from New York, whom Santos has been feuding with for months, were not so equivocal.

While there was already bipartisan support for expelling Santos from Congress, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said he doesn’t plan to file a resolution to remove him at this time.

“George Santos is a disgrace,” Jeffries told Punchbowl. “But I’m not focused on George Santos right now. We’re working through trying to avoid a catastrophic default on our debt.”

Santos is heading back to New York

The congressman traveled from D.C. to New York on Tuesday evening, skipping House votes. Santos’s attorney declined to comment on the charges, and his staffers did not respond to questions as they abruptly left Santos’s office on Tuesday, according to CNN:

A spokeswoman for Santos, Naysa Woomer, would not respond to shouted questions from reporters Tuesday afternoon and abruptly departed the congressman’s DC office with her backpack when asked about the federal charges against him. Prior to her departure from the office, CNN witnessed three staffers for Santos abruptly depart with their bags. They wouldn’t talk when pressed for comment.

Santos planned to run for reelection

Santos, who announced in March that he would run again for his seat representing parts of Long Island and Queens in 2024, has admitted to several of his fabrications and lies. But for the most part, he has denied the more serious claims, from fleecing a disabled vet whose dog was dying to serious fraud allegations. Rather than succumb to pressure to resign, he has tried to push through the controversy to rebrand as a star in the Republican Party’s far-right wing.

Santos Not Sure He’ll Win After Charges: Live Updates