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New York Republican George Santos pleads not guilty to 13-count federal indictment

Santos pleaded not guilty in federal court this afternoon and held a news conference after he was released on bond. He faces 13 charges, including fraud and money laundering.

What to know about Santos' indictment

  • Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., faces 13 counts, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making materially false statements to the House of Representatives. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
  • Santos said at a news conference after he was released on bond that he will be in the House tomorrow for votes.
  • Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said Santos "used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives."
  • Several Republicans have called for Santos' resignation, but House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said he will reserve judgment until Santos has his day in court. McCarthy later said he would not support Santos' re-election bid.

FBI previously talked to Navy veteran who accused Santos in crowdfunding scheme

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

In January, Navy veteran Richard Osthoff accused Santos of refusing to hand over thousands of dollars raised in a 2016 online campaign to fund surgery for his dog.

Osthoff said a charity group linked to Santos created a GoFundMe page for his dog but never provided him with the money. Osthoff said he believes access to the $3,000 donation pot, which he said Santos withheld from him, would have saved his dog’s life.

“I was so livid that I realized that this guy is now a serving congressman. He doesn’t deserve that job. It’s horrendous that he could lie and steal and cheat his way through life,” Osthoff said.

The incident was not part of the charges unveiled Wednesday. The FBI spoke to Osthoff earlier this year.

McCarthy says he won't support Santos' re-election bid

Alexandra Bacallao

Alexandra Bacallao and Dareh Gregorian

He's not demanding he resign, but House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said today he's not supporting Santos' bid for re-election.

“No, I’m not gonna support Santos,” McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at the Capitol. “I think he’s got some other things to focus on in this life than running for stuff.”

After his arraignment today, Santos said at a news conference that he's still running for re-election.

McCarthy hasn't called on Santos to resign, saying he wants him to have his day in court. “He will go through his time in trial and let’s find out how the outcome is,” he said earlier today.

Nassau County prosecutor suggests Santos could face more charges

Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly, whose office assisted in the federal investigation, told reporters today that Santos' indictment was an "important first step in holding him accountable."

Asked whether she expected more charges to be filed, Donnelly smiled and said, “It is very much an ongoing investigation.”

Donnelly said after she announced her investigation in December that her "federal partners" approached her and told her "we can make a stronger investigation together" and that she agreed.

"It was a very well-run investigation," she said. "They uncovered more inconsistencies than we ever thought possible."

Santos makes fundraising pitch after court appearance

Hours after his arraignment, Santos made a pitch for 2024 campaign donations on Twitter.

In his post, Santos urged donors to contribute so he could continue “fighting for freedom.” He included a link to WinRed, a fundraising site that aims to “help GOP candidates and committees win across the U.S.” The page indicates any donation will support Santos’ re-election bid.

The federal charges include a scheme in which Santos allegedly used political contributions for personal use.

NBC News

Santos is on his way back to D.C.


Olympia Sonnier

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Olympia Sonnier, Julie Tsirkin and Rebecca Shabad

Santos is now en route to Washington by car, two sources familiar with the congressman's plans confirmed to NBC News. It’s unclear whether he will go to the Capitol once he arrives.

The House is expected to hold a procedural vote this evening on a GOP-backed border security bill. The House is also scheduled to take the official photo for the 118th Congress tonight.

At a news conference today after his arraignment, Santos said he planned to return to the Capitol to vote on final passage of the border bill tomorrow.

Prior scandals: Santos accused in credit card skimming scheme

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

A convicted Brazilian man accused Santos of being the architect of a credit card skimming scheme in 2017, allegations that Santos rejected in March.

“I’m innocent. I never did anything of criminal activity and I’m no mastermind of anything,” Santos told reporters at the time when asked about a sworn affidavit from Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha. “The story’s false.”

In the March affidavit, whose recipients reportedly included the FBI and Secret Service, Trelha claimed Santos was his partner and the person who taught him how to clone ATM and credit cards and how to use skimming devices.

The credit card scheme is not mentioned in the charges against Santos released today.

Santos says he still plans to run again, will return to House tomorrow

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Santos told reporters that he still plans to run for re-election next year despite the charges he faces.

He also said he will return to Washington for a planned vote on a GOP-sponsored border bill tomorrow.

He then left the courthouse.

Santos says charge related to Covid unemployment funds is 'inaccurate'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Asked about the allegation that he applied for unemployment benefits during the Covid pandemic while he was receiving a salary of $120,000, Santos said it’s “inaccurate information.”

He added, “I don’t know where the government’s getting their information.”

Santos is charged with fraudulently applying for and receiving almost $25,000 in Covid unemployment benefits from the U.S. Treasury from June 2020 to April 2021, despite being employed.

Santos emerges from courthouse, says he will 'fight to defend myself'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

After emerging from the courthouse following his arraignment, Santos expressed confidence that some of the charges against him are "inaccurate."

"I'm gonna have to go and fight to defend myself," he told a throng of reporters on Long Island.

"The reality is, it's a witch hunt because it makes no sense that in four months, five months, I'm indicted," said Santos, who then railed against President Joe Biden and his family, referencing a Republican memo released earlier in the day alleging his family members received funds from "foreign destinations." (The memo does not detail a specific allegation of a crime committed by the Biden family or relative.)

"I'm gonna fight my battle, I'm going to deliver," Santos said, adding that he will clear his name.

Protesters wave signs as Santos speaks to the media

Protesters against Santos waved signs behind the lawmaker as he spoke to the media after his arraignment.

A sign directly behind Santos read "LIES." Another read "resign now" and "lock him up." A third, referring to Santos' mother, Fatima Caruso Devolder, read: "Devolder Defrauds DeVoters."

Santos released on $500,000 bond

Adam Reiss

The $500,000 bond package is secured by three sureties. Santos' lawyer Joe Murray told NBC News they want to keep their identities sealed because they are worried about retaliation.

Santos' absence could cause problems for McCarthy's razor-thin GOP majority

Santos’ absence from Congress is quickly becoming a problem for McCarthy and his leadership team.

With his razor-thin, 222-213 majority, McCarthy typically can afford only four GOP defections to pass a bill. But with Santos gone, the speaker can now only afford three GOP defections on any vote.

He’s already had some close calls: McCarthy’s debt ceiling and spending plan recently passed on a 217-215 roll call, with zero votes to spare.

This afternoon, McCarthy’s problems are bigger than just Santos. The leadership delayed a 1:30 p.m. ET procedural vote on a GOP border security and immigration bill as several rank-and-file Republicans — including some from the border state of Texas — objected to provisions in the package and demanded changes.

Leadership allies expressed optimism they would be able to pass the rule, setting up a final vote later in the week.

“We don’t have a lot of margin for error,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., "but I’m feeling good about it.”

Santos will be limited in his travel

Adam Reiss

Under the judge's order, Santos must submit to pretrial services, have random monitoring at his home, surrender his passport and keep his travel to New York and Washington, D.C. He can travel elsewhere, as long as he receives permission from the court and pretrial services.

His defense attorney said that since he’s running for re-election and travels by car to campaign events, he will promise to give advance notice.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne Shields said, “Don’t assume something is OK. You have to ask first."

The hearing lasted 11 minutes.

The next court date is June 30 at noon.

Santos pleads not guilty in federal court

Adam Reiss

Santos has pleaded not guilty. He was charged on 13 counts — 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.

What happens if Santos resigns

If Santos were to decide to step down early, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, would have to declare a special election within 10 days of the vacancy, according to state law. If he were to resign after July 1, 2024, however, then state law dictates that there is no special election.

A special election to fill his seat would have to take place 70-80 days after Hochul issues a special election proclamation.

This would likely be a hotly contested race. Santos is one of 18 Republicans representing districts Joe Biden would have carried if the state's new congressional map had been in place in 2020. Santos won his first term in November by 8 percentage points.

Romney: Santos "should have resigned a long time ago"

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said on CNN that Santos "should have resigned a long time ago."

"He’s an embarrassment to our party," Romney continued. "He’s an embarrassment to the United States Congress.”

Romney has previously referred to Santos as "a sick puppy" who "shouldn't be in Congress."

Santos claimed he was Jewish, then that he was 'Jew-ish'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

During his congressional campaign, Santos presented himself to his constituents as being Jewish.

The news outlet The Forward, however, questioned the claim on Santos’ campaign website that his grandparents “fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and again fled persecution during WWII" in a December report.

The outlet also noted that Santos had called himself a "proud American Jew" in a position paper that was shared with Jewish and pro-Israel leaders during his campaign.

In response to the report, Santos told the New York Post, “I never claimed to be Jewish.”

“I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background, I said I was ‘Jew-ish,’” he added.

U.S. attorney says the indictment 'seeks to hold Santos accountable'

The indictment unveiled today "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," Peace said. "He used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives."

Peace is the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. He was appointed by Biden and sworn in on Oct. 15, 2021.

He said that his office and law enforcement will "continue to aggressively root out corruption and self-dealing from our community’s public institutions and hold public officials accountable to the constituents who elected them."

Santos website still claims his mother was in the Twin Towers on 9/11

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Santos has claimed that his mother was at her office inside the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but records previously obtained by NBC News showed she was living in Brazil at the time.

Even after the charges were unsealed Wednesday, the claim was still on his campaign website.

The immigration records showed that Santos’ mother, Fatima Caruso Devolder, was admitted to the U.S. in April 2003 and had not been in the country since 1999. She had been living in Rio de Janeiro.

Devolder left New York in 1999 and claimed in 2001 when she was back in Brazil that her green card had been stolen, according to the records. She later applied for re-entry and was re-admitted into the U.S. in 2003, the records show. Devolder indicated that she was unemployed or retired and that she planned to live in Woodside, New York, a neighborhood in Queens, according to the documents. She died in 2016.

Even though the records show Devolder’s absence from the U.S. from 1999 to 2003, Santos’ congressional campaign website says: “George’s mother was in her office in the South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001, when the horrific events of that day unfolded. She survived the tragic events on September 11th, but she passed away a few years later when she lost her battle to cancer."

Democratic Chief of Staff posts sarcastic tweet about office neighbor Santos

As Santos prepares to be arraigned, Hannah Spengler, chief of staff to Rep. Don Davis, D-N.C., tweeted a photo of the closed door to Santos' office.

"Miss our neighbor already :(" Spengler wrote.

A delivered but not yet retrieved newspaper sits at the entrance.

GOP Rep. Steve Womack joins calls for Santos to resign

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday that Santos should resign from Congress.

“Oh absolutely,” Womack said when asked if his GOP colleague should step down. “It’s a distraction and it’s a punch line for a lot of commentary regarding the Republican Party that we don’t need.”

Rep. George Santos charged with 13 federal counts

Santos newly accused of Covid unemployment fraud

One of the surprising components of the Santos indictment has to do with new allegations that he fraudulently applied for and received unemployment benefits even as he was drawing a $120,000 salary from an investment firm.

The federal grand jury charged that Santos, in an application sent through the New York State Department of Labor in June 2020 (a few months before he lost his first bid for Congress), falsely claimed that he was eligible for unemployment pay despite receiving a salary from an investment firm from February 2020 to April 2021.

Santos, the indictment states, "received approximately $24,744 in unemployment insurance benefits" from the U.S. Treasury from June 2020 to April 2021.

As congressional reporter Jamie Dupree first noted on Twitter, Santos is co-sponsoring a bill in the House this week aimed at helping states recover Covid unemployment funds that were fraudulently obtained.

"The story of George Santos is over," says NY GOP chair

New York's GOP Chair Ed Cox released a statement after the charges were made public, saying, "The writing has been on the wall for months: George Santos will not be a member of the next Congress."

'The story of George Santos is over," Cox wrote, pivoting to House Republicans' unveiling of more attacks against President Joe Biden and his family earlier in the day: "The story of the unraveling of the Biden family’s influence peddling scheme is just beginning."

This isn't the first time New York GOP leaders have blasted the lawmaker.

Shortly after the Santos scandal broke, Nassau County GOP officials and a handful of New York House Republicans called for him to step down as well.

Santos saga began in December with New York Times report

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

The New York Times published a bombshell investigation in December that said the newspaper couldn't verify many parts of Santos' resume, including his claim that he had worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and had graduated from Baruch College. The report came a little over a month after his election to Congress.

Days later, he said in several interviews with New York news outlets that he was guilty of embellishing his qualifications, which were listed on his congressional campaign's website.

“A lot of people overstate in their resumes or twist a little bit,” he said in an interview with WABC radio. “I’m not saying I’m not guilty of that.”

In an interview with the New York Post, he said he did not graduate from Baruch College or any institution of higher learning. “I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume,” he said, according to the paper. “I own up to that. … We do stupid things in life.”

And he apologized in an interview with City and State New York. “Did I embellish my resume? Yes, I did. And I’m sorry, and it shouldn’t be done."

Republican Rep. Gonzales says Santos should be 'immediately expelled'

Ali Vitali

Republican Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales — who has become a frequent thorn in the side of the GOP conference — is now calling for Rep. Santos to be “immediately expelled from Congress.”

While others have called for Santos to resign or expressed that he should no longer serve in Congress, Gonzales is the first Republican to call for his immediate expulsion from the House, which would require a two-thirds majority vote.

His call is notable in that it places the issue squarely at the feet of Speaker McCarthy, who ultimately decides what gets a vote on the floor. McCarthy has said that he will only call on Santos to resign if he is convicted.

Santos learned of charges on Tuesday

Olympia Sonnier

Olympia Sonnier and Jonathan Dienst

Santos learned about the federal charges against him on Tuesday. He was in Washington for House votes Tuesday evening and turned himself into federal authorities Wednesday morning and was in custody around 9 a.m. ET.

McCarthy says he'll call for Santos' resignation if convicted

Speaker McCarthy is rejecting some calls for Santos to resign before he goes to trial, saying he'll follow precedent and wait until the New York Republican has his day in court. “He will go through his time in trial and let’s find out how the outcome is," he said.

McCarthy said he'd been busy all morning and was informed of the 13 charges by reporters.

When asked about Santos on Tuesday night, McCarthy pointed to previous members of Congress who have faced federal charges, like former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.

"We’ll just follow the same pattern we always have, right," the speaker said. "If a person is indicted, they’re not on committees, they have the right to vote, but they have to go to trial. Just like we had Jeff Fortenberry, he had the same ability, I removed him from committees, but he was found guilty and I told him he needed to resign. That is my policies and principles on this, and I’d follow the same pattern."

Fortenberry resigned from Congress last year after being convicted of lying about illegal campaign contributions.

Other members of House Republican leadership, including Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., and GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik also rejected calls for Santos to resign.

"In America, there’s a presumption of innocence," Scalise said Wednesday. "But they’re serious charges. He’s going to have to go through the legal process.”

Santos taken into federal custody

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Matthew Johnson

Rebecca Shabad and Matthew Johnson

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., was taken into custody Wednesday morning at a Long Island courthouse as the Department of Justice unsealed a 13-count federal indictment against him.

Santos, 34, will be arraigned at a hearing Wednesday afternoon when the charges against him will be read.

The congressman has been charged with 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 DOJ.

Read more of this story here.