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Embattled Rep. George Santos pleads not guilty to latest federal charges

Freshman Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who is facing a renewed effort by his New York Republican colleagues to expel him from office, pleaded not guilty Friday to 23 federal charges, including fraud, money laundering, falsifying records and aggravated identity theft.

In May, Santos was charged in a 13-count federal indictment by prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York, who later added an additional 10 charges in a superseding indictment in October. Prosecutors have accused Santos of numerous financial crimes, including taking unemployment benefits in 2020 while he was employed and running for Congress, making unauthorized charges to the credit cards of his political donors, and lying on federal forms about his campaign finances.

On Friday, Santos appeared in the federal courthouse in Central Islip, Long Island, and pleaded not guilty to all the charges, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, Danielle Haas. The judge overseeing the case, Joanna Seybert, set a trial date for early September 2024, about two months before the general election.

Santos, who did not return a text message seeking comment Friday, has said he plans to serve his full term in office and seek reelection next year. His lawyer, Joseph Murray, declined to comment.

Earlier this week, five Republicans from New York introduced a privileged resolution to expel Santos; the matter is expected to be voted upon next week.

Shortly after Santos won an open seat in a swing district that President Biden carried in 2020, the New York Times revealed numerous falsehoods in Santos’s biography, including the businesses where he claimed to have worked and colleges from which he said he graduated.

Santos admitted to embellishing his résumé but continued to make additional claims about his background that could not be verified or were outright disproved. Officials at the prestigious high school he claimed to have attended briefly, Horace Mann, said they never heard of him, and the Forward, a Jewish news outlet, cast doubt on his claims of being a descendant of Holocaust survivors.

That later claim led New York Republicans to call for Santos to resign, which he rebuffed. In May, House Democrats sought to expel Santos but Republicans, who hold a narrow majority, referred the matter to the House Ethics committee. Last month, amid the latest charges against Santos, his Republican colleagues from New York said they would push a resolution to expel him.

One Republican looking to expel Santos, Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), said he raised the issue with the newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.). “He said do what you think is right and do what’s right for your district,” D’Esposito said of his meeting with Johnson.

When asked Thursday on Fox about the resolution to expel Santos, Johnson said, “George Santos is due due process.’

“If we’re going to expel people from Congress just because they’re charged with a crime, or accused, that’s a problem,’ he added.

Santos, for his part, says he is seeking reelection. His campaign refunded more money than it raised in the last filing period last month. On Thursday, he sent mixed messages on X, writing, “Everything has an end life.” Hours later, he wrote to offer “clarification.” No, he is not resigning and, “I’m entitled to due process and not a predetermined outcome as some are seeking.”

Speaking on the social media platform Spaces on Thursday night, Santos conflated his effort to prove his innocence in federal court with his colleagues’ effort to expel him from Congress.

“If this motion passes, I think it’s a clear indication that this country has now gone down the drain,” Santos said.

He added: “Everybody is innocent until proven guilty. It is the government’s burden to prove you guilty. Unfortunately some of my colleagues want to be judge, jury and executioner and deny me the right to due process.”

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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