McCarthy Not Asking Rep. Santos to Resign but Won’t Back Reelection Plans After Criminal Indictment

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
May 11, 2023Congress
McCarthy Not Asking Rep. Santos to Resign but Won’t Back Reelection Plans After Criminal Indictment
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks to the press after meeting President Joe Biden and other leaders at the White House in Washington on May 9, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) ruled out supporting Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) in a potential reelection bid after the freshman lawmaker was hit with criminal charges for fraud on Wednesday.

Santos, who is about five months into his term, faces a 13-count indictment brought by Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney for New York’s Eastern District. Santos faces seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives, and one count of theft of public funds.

On Tuesday, after reports broke that Santos would be criminally indicted, McCarthy told reporters that he would let Santos continue to serve unless he is found guilty of criminal charges. McCarthy said this standard of allowing Santos to serve in Congress until he is found guilty is the same standard given to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and former Republican congressman Jeff Fortenberry when they faced federal criminal charges.

Menendez faced corruption charges, but a mistrial was declared in his case in 2017 and the Department of Justice dropped the charges in 2018. Menendez currently serves as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Fortenberry was charged with facilitating illegal campaign contributions and making false statements to federal investigators. He was convicted last year in a federal court in California. McCarthy called on Fortenberry to resign after the verdict and Fortenberry left office on March 31, 2022.

“We’ll just follow the same pattern we always have,” McCarthy said Tuesday while addressing Santos’s case.

“If a person is indicted, they’re not on committees, they have the right to vote, but they have to go to trial,” McCarthy added. “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.”

Won’t Back Santos Reelection Bid

The criminal complaint (pdf) alleges Santos deceived his supporters into donating to a company under the guise that the funds would be used to support his 2022 congressional campaign. Prosecutors say Santos moved money from this campaign fund over to his personal bank accounts and allegedly then used much of that money for personal expenses including purchasing designer clothing and paying off debts.

The complaint further alleges Santos obtained unemployment insurance through the New York State Department of Labor by falsely claiming to have been unemployed in March 2020. Santos allegedly received $24,000 in unemployment benefits through April 2021.

The complaint also alleges Santos made false statements to Congress by providing incorrect information about his income and assets during his 2020 and 2022 congressional campaigns. In Santos’s 2020 campaign, he allegedly overstated his income from one company and altogether failed to report his salary from another investment firm. Santos claimed he received about $55,000 in income from a single company when in fact he received $25,403 from one company and $27,555 from a second, a total of $52,958 between the two income sources.

In his 2022 campaign filings, Santos allegedly claimed he was making $750,000 in earned income through a company he owned, and had between $1 million and $5 million in unearned dividends through that same company, along with up to $5 million more in a savings account. Prosecutors say Santos actually received about $28,107 from an investment firm and $20,304 in unemployment benefits during this time period, “both of which he failed to truthfully report as required.”

While he didn’t call for Santos’s resignation on Tuesday, McCarthy did rule out support for a reelection bid for the embattled lawmaker after the Wednesday arraignment hearing.

“I think he’s got some other things to focus on in his life than running for stuff,” McCarthy told a press gaggle.

If convicted, Santos could face up to 20 years in prison.

Santos Vows to Clear His Name

Santos pleaded “not guilty” during the arraignment hearing on Wednesday and, in comments to the press outside the courthouse, said he would fight the charges.

“I’m gonna fight my battle, I’m gonna deliver, I’m gonna fight the witch hunt, I’m gonna take care of clearing my name and I look forward to doing that,” he said.

NTD News reached out to Santos’s office and an attorney representing him in the criminal case. Neither responded by the time this article was published.