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Scandal-plagued Rep. George Santos pleads not guilty to latest charges

U.S. Rep. George Santos leaves the federal courthouse in Central Islip, N.Y., on Friday after pleading not guilty to charges in a revised indictment.
Stefan Jeremiah
/
AP
U.S. Rep. George Santos leaves the federal courthouse in Central Islip, N.Y., on Friday after pleading not guilty to charges in a revised indictment.

Updated October 27, 2023 at 3:20 PM ET

Days after helping fellow Republicans choose a new House speaker, Rep. George Santos on Friday pleaded not guilty to the latest charges against him during an arraignment in a federal courthouse on Long Island, N.Y.

Judge Joanna Seybert set a trial date for Sept. 9, 2024.

The scandal-plagued freshman from New York's 3rd Congressional District was facing a second arraignment on a growing list of corruption charges linked to his 2022 campaign.

Santos, who has acknowledged lying to voters about most aspects of his life before winning office, has denied any criminal wrongdoing and says he's running for reelection next year.

He was arrested in May and charged with 13 felonies ranging from fraud to embezzlement.

This month, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York expanded the indictment to 23 counts. On Friday, Santos pleaded not guilty to all 23 counts, including identity theft, credit card fraud and conspiracy.

"Santos is charged with stealing people's identities and making charges on his own donors' credit cards without their authorization," U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.

According to prosecutors, Santos illegally charged $12,000 to the credit card of a campaign contributor, without that person's knowledge or authorization, and then transferred "the vast majority of that money into his personal bank account."

On Oct. 5, Santos' former treasurer, Nancy Marks, pleaded guilty to federal charges linked to her work for his campaign. It remains unclear whether she agreed to help the prosecution as part of her plea agreement.

"Unfit to serve in Congress"

In addition to his growing legal troubles, Santos faces a House ethics probe, and he has been stripped of his committee assignments. On Thursday, many of his fellow New York Republican lawmakers introduced a resolution to expel him from Congress.

"Santos' many deceptions coupled with the ever-expanding legal case against him further strengthen my long held belief that he is unfit to serve in Congress," Rep. Anthony D'Esposito said in an Oct. 11 statement posted on social media.

Santos created a largely fictional biography of himself before winning office in 2022. He invented a professional résumé and fabricated his educational background. He concocted a Jewish heritage that turned out to be untrue and even claimed a college sports career that unraveled under scrutiny.

The effort to oust Santos, like all other business in the House, was frozen for weeks by the Republican Party's bitter and protracted fight over the speaker's gavel.

It's unclear now whether fractious Republicans actually will vote to remove a member of their razor-thin majority.

The move would trigger a special election in a district that includes neighborhoods on Long Island in Queens, where Democrats are expected to be highly competitive.

Some leading New York Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Elise Stefanik, who helped Santos win office, have so far stayed silent about his future. For now, the freshman Republican remains a full member of the Republican caucus, aligning himself with the far right.

Meanwhile, in a statement on social media, Santos promised "#Polit[i]calWarfare" against New York Republicans who want him ejected.

"I do want to remind my dear colleagues ... that I will have a lot of time on my hands to return the favor in the most expedient fashion mankind has ever seen," Santos warned.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.