House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told congressional reporters Wednesday evening that he will not support Representative George Santos‘ reelection bid amid the New York congressman’s 13-count federal indictment revealed earlier in the day.
Santos was charged by prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York and was arrested and arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Long Island court. The freshman Republican lawmaker was released on a $500,000 bond and is restricted to travel only between New York and Washington, D.C., unless otherwise permitted in advance.
His charges include seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making false statements to the House of Representatives, according to the indictment that was released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York. Santos pleaded not guilty to all 13 charges.
Santos has long faced calls to resign after reports surfaced in December that he had embezzled much of his resume while running last fall, including information about his education and work history. McCarthy, however, has often toed the line in the face of the resignation demands and has previously defended Santos’ right to serve in office until he is proven guilty of the accusations.
Now, with a federal indictment on the line, McCarthy has taken a stronger stance against his fellow Republican, telling CNN congressional correspondent Manu Raju that he does not plan to support Santos’ reelection campaign for 2024, which he announced last month.
“Santos has a lot going on,” McCarthy told Raju. “I think he has other things to focus on in his life other than running for re-election.”
McCarthy also told Raju that he would call for Santos to resign from office if an investigation from the House Ethics Committee finds that he broke the law. The Ethics Committee announced in March that it was opening a bipartisan investigation into Santos after several complaints were filed to the panel.
News — Speaker McCarthy told me he won’t support George Santos for re-election and also said he would call on him to resign if House Ethics finds he broke the law. Also says no progress made in today’s staff-level debt talks. pic.twitter.com/YPcmCj6L8c
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 10, 2023
Santos told reporters as he left the courthouse Wednesday that the charges against him were a “witch hunt,” and instead raged about the accusations against President Joe Biden’s family business transactions that were released in a 36-page memo last week.
“It makes no sense that in four months, five months, I’m indicted,” Santos said. “You have Joe Biden‘s entire family receiving deposits from nine family members receiving money from foreign destinations into their bank accounts.”
“I’m going to fight my battle. I’m going to deliver. I’m going to fight the witch hunt. I am going to take care of clearing my name, and I look forward to doing that,” he added. He also confirmed to reporters he still intends to run for reelection.
Santos tweeted later in the day in all caps from his campaign account, “WHERE’S HUNTER?”
Newsweek reached out to Santos’ congressional office via email Wednesday evening for comment on McCarthy’s statements.
A handful of Republicans have shown support for Santos remaining in office as his charges play out, including McCarthy, who told reporters on Tuesday before the indictment was unsealed that an individual who is charged is not allowed to serve on congressional committees.
“They have a right to vote, but they have to go to trial,” McCarthy added, according to a report from the New York Times.
Santos previously recused himself from his committee assignments in light of an ethics investigation against him in January.
Representative Steve Scalise, the Republican majority leader from Louisiana, told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday in regard to Santos, “In America, there’s a presumption of innocence, but they’re serious charges. He’s going to have to go through the legal process.”
New York Representative Elise Stefanik added during the press conference that the legal process would have to “play itself out.”
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time a member of Congress from either party has been indicted,” she added.
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