Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) pleaded not guilty to federal charges of fraudulently inflating his campaign finance reports and charging his donors’ credit cards without authorization.
Santos appeared in court in Central Islip, N.Y., on Friday for his arraignment on the 10 additional charges prosecutors unveiled in a superseding indictment earlier this month.
During the proceeding, U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert set the trial to begin Sept. 9, 2024, court filings show. The parties had requested a trial date months earlier, either in May or June.
Santos’s next court appearance is set for Dec. 12, court filings indicate.
His plea comes as political and legal pressure grows on Santos, including a new effort from a group of fellow New York Republicans to have him expelled from the House.
“I have not been in discussion or a plea deal at this time, and the reason so is I’m strong in my convictions that I can prove my innocence,” Santos told reporters earlier this month after being charged with the new counts.
Santos has been the subject of controversy ever since he arrived on Capitol Hill in January after he admitted to embellishing parts of his background while campaigning.
Prosecutors originally indicted Santos in May on 13 charges over accusations he misled donors, fraudulently received unemployment benefits, and lied on his House financial disclosures. Santos pleaded not guilty to those charges, too.
Two former Santos campaign staffers have since been charged. Santos’s former campaign treasurer took a plea deal, while the congressman’s former fundraiser remains in negotiations with prosecutors, court filings show.
In conjunction with Friday’s arraignment, the judge also held a hearing about a potential conflict of interest involving Joe Murray, Santos’s attorney.
After being advised of the potential conflict, Santos waived it, enabling Murray to continue representing the lawmaker, court filings show.
Prosecutors wrote in court filings that Murray has had a years-long personal relationship with an unnamed political consultant referenced extensively in the indictment. The consultant sought to retain Murray during prosecutors’ investigation, prosecutors said, though Murray never became the consultant’s attorney because he was already representing Santos.
Murray also has a professional relationship with Nancy Marks, Santos’s former campaign treasurer who took a plea deal in the case just before the superseding indictment was unveiled, the documents indicate.
Marks served as Murray’s campaign treasurer when he campaigned for district attorney in 2019. Though Murray’s campaign account remains inactive, Marks remains the signatory on the account, prosecutors said.
“Murray’s relationships with Person #1 and Ms. Marks pose inherent dangers,” prosecutors wrote in court filings, while acknowledging Santos could waive the conflict.
The Hill has reached out to Santos for further comment.
Santos’s not guilty plea to the second set of charges comes as pressure is mounting on the embattled lawmaker on Capitol Hill.
On Thursday, a group of New York Republicans launched an effort to expel Santos, moving to force a vote on a resolution to oust the congressman from office. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.) called the measure to the floor as a privileged resolution, which forces leadership to schedule a vote on the legislation within two legislative days — as early as Wednesday of next week, when the House returns to session.
It will be the second time in roughly five months that the House acted on a resolution to expel Santos. In May, the chamber voted to refer a Santos expulsion resolution — sponsored by a Democratic lawmaker — to the Ethics Committee, a move that was panned as largely redundant because the panel had been looking into the congressman for months.
Reached for comment on Thursday, Santos referred The Hill to a post on X, formerly Twitter, that said: “Three points of clarification: 1. I have not cleared out my office. 2. I’m not resigning. 3. I’m entitled to due process and not a predetermined outcome as some are seeking. God bless!”
The New York Republicans voted to refer the resolution to the Ethics Committee in May, deferring to the panel as the legal proceedings played out. This time around, however, the bloc of lawmakers suggested that they would oppose any effort to prevent the House from voting on the core resolution because of Marks’s guilty plea.
“I think the difference between this and what the Democrats had brought is that you have a guilty plea in court by his treasurer, confirming significant details and obviously a superseding indictment based on that conviction and guilty plea by his treasurer,” Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), one of the co-sponsors of the resolution, told reporters Thursday. “When the original expulsion resolution was referred to Ethics, is because you need level of due process here. And obviously, you know, in order to get two-thirds vote, people need to be able to base something on. You have that with the guilty plea of his treasurer.”
“His treasurer pled guilty,” he later added. “The superseding indictment that he is going to court tomorrow for is based on his treasurer’s guilty plea. So you have now a conviction in this case that very clearly lays out what he did and how he did it.”
Despite his legal headwinds, Santos is running for reelection in 2024.
This story was updated at 1:06 p.m.