House Republican leaders reacted to the federal indictment of Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., on Wednesday, declining to call for his resignation while his case proceeds through court.
“In regard to George Santos, he was already removed from all of his committees,” House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said during Wednesday’s leadership press conference. “There is a legal process. The charges just came out, we just saw some of them this morning. And so, in America, there is a presumption of innocence, but they’re serious charges. He’s going to have to go through the legal process.”
A 13-count indictment was made public Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging Santos 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.
The indictment was returned Tuesday under seal by a federal grand jury sitting in Central Islip, New York. Santos was arrested Wednesday morning and will be arraigned in the afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay at the federal courthouse in Central Islip. He currently is being held at that federal courthouse.
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Included in those charges are allegations that Santos committed unemployment benefit fraud with COVID-19 pandemic relief programs. House Republicans are currently working on legislation to extend the statute of limitations on pandemic unemployment and benefit fraud. Scalise was asked by a reporter whether the charges against Santos undermine that effort.
“We’re going to continue to work to root out fraud,” he responded. “We’re talking about tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars in fraud in many federal programs. We pointed this out. I mean, they’re not even checking Social Security numbers.”
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“You’ve got reports of people, even in foreign countries, getting taxpayer money for things that should be only available to Americans who are coming on hard times, not to go to drug cartels or to people that just want to bilk the system,” Scalise continued. “And so I hope Democrats will support us in rooting out fraud.”
The majority leader added that Santos will have to “face the charges that he has” while the court proceedings “play itself out.”
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House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., noted, “Unfortunately, this is not the first time a member of Congress from either party has been indicted.”
“There are a set of rules and as the majority leader stated, [Santos] voluntarily had stepped down from his committees,” she said. “We are committed to making sure that we root out any fraud when it comes to unemployment and pandemic assistance. And we’re working to have support from our conference. And it’s good policy, and we urge the Democrats to vote in support of it.”
Fox News’ Danielle Wallace and Tyler Olson contributed to this report.
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