Embattled Rep. George Santos remained defiant Wednesday after facing new federal criminal charges, insisting he would not accept a plea deal and would run for re-election next year.
Santos, a New York Republican, claimed there was no basis for the 23 charges against him and claimed he would fight all of them in court and fight calls to deport him.
“As I have said in the past, I will continue to fight this. Nothing has changed,” Santos told a small group of reporters in his office on Wednesday morning. “I think I’ve made it clear that I’m going to fight this to prove my innocence. So, yes, I deny almost all of the accusations.”
Federal prosecutors on Tuesday unveiled a new round of charges against Santos, called a superseding indictment, which brings the total number of counts against him to 23. The indictment is broader and provides new and damaging details about Santos’ alleged personal gain. His campaign included accusations that he stole donors’ identities and made thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges to their credit cards. Federal prosecutors also accuse him of embezzling company cash and conspiring with a former campaign treasurer to falsify donation totals.
Santos insisted Wednesday that he would not accept any plea deal as he disputed the charges in the indictment – sometimes with profanity.
“The first question you asked me was, ‘Will you accept a plea deal?’ No. The answer is, I will not accept a plea deal,” Santos said, adding that he believed the campaign finance charges were “bullshit.” .
When pressed by reporters about the litany of accusations against him, Santos claimed he had not defrauded any donors or falsified fundraising goals and said he had not embezzled campaign funds.
Regarding the specific charges currently filed against him in federal court, Santos claimed he didn’t know who was charging fraudulent credit card charges and admitted he may have received more unemployment benefits than he was entitled to.
“I never actually did any financial formalities during a campaign. That’s why you pay campaign expenses to treasurers, fundraisers, and financial advisors. That’s why you have such huge campaign expenses. Why on God’s Green Where on earth do I have to get a credit card? That’s not the case,” Santos said, adding that he didn’t know who made the fraud allegations.
In an indictment earlier this year, the government accused Santos of participating in an unemployment insurance program that resulted in him receiving more than $24,000 in unemployment benefits. But Santos played down the allegation on Wednesday, saying he may have received an extra check or two and could prove it.
“Even though I took two checks that were two too many, let’s be very clear, no one in this country should be punished for taking one or more checks than they were entitled to while on unemployment or under these circumstances. And being sued, under completely extenuating circumstances of the pandemic. You’re not going to sue people for this, because if you were to sue every American who was overpaid on unemployment benefits during the pandemic, you’d be pretty much at this point would indict half the country. So, you know, this is an indictment worth $1,100 and I could easily write that check and make the government whole,” he said.
In May, Santos, 35, pleaded not guilty to 13 federal charges. Those initial charges included 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 U.S. House of Representatives.
Santos, who was elected last year to represent a district that includes parts of Long Island and Queens, is under investigation by multiple jurisdictions and the House Ethics Committee. The congressman acknowledged making some misleading claims about his education and finances but continued to deny the more serious allegations. He admitted no crime.
He announced in April that he would seek re-election in 2024 to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which is likely to become hotly contested territory next year. If the lines were redrawn, President Biden would have won the district by about 8 percentage points in 2020.
Democratic former Rep. Tom Suozzi left Congress to run unsuccessfully for governor in 2022. Earlier Tuesday, he announced he would run for his old seat.
“The madness in Washington, D.C., and the absurdity of George Santos remaining in the United States Congress is clear,” he said in a statement on social media.