The congressman, who faces nearly two dozen felony charges, has pleaded not guilty to all of the counts against him. Those counts grew to 23 in total on 10 October, when a superseding indictment was filed against him by the Department of Justice. In his latest indictment, he is accused of stealing identities and making false charges on his own donors’ credit cards. In doing so, he falsely inflated the wealth of his 2022 congressional campaign.
But in past interviews and comments to reporters in the halls of Capitol Hill, the New York Republican has remained defiant and condemned calls for his resignation or ouster as his critics supposedly serving as “judge, jury and executioner”. There was little display of that brashness during his interview with CNN, though he repeated his claim that he would not resign. He did not rule out the possibility of taking a plea deal were it to be offered by the Department of Justice.
“I’m not saying I’m not ruling out ... as of right now, it’s not on the table,” he said. “I’m not exploring any of that right now. Those conversations are yet to be had … right now I’m pretty focused on my defence.”
Mr Santos told CNN that he had made “mistakes” in the course of managing his campaign’s finances, while denying that he had made any deliberately false statements. He denied knowingly inflating the wealth of his campaign, and claimed that he had little oversight or knowledge of his campaign’s Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings.
“I never, ever submitted or even looked at a single report,” he said. “I’m a candidate, candidates do not handle money, candidates do not handle finances, candidates do not handle filings. I don’t even know what the FEC filing system looks like.”
His defiance has appeared to soften at least in some regard with the guilty plea of his former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, and her subsequent claim of her boss’s involvement in the fundraising scheme.
“I did these things in agreement with co-conspirator #1 for his benefit and to obtain money for his campaign by artificially inflating his funds to meet thresholds set by a national political committee,” Marks told a court in October, referring to Mr Santos.
Mr Santos survived a GOP-led effort to expel him from the House of Representatives this past week after a number of Democrats voted against the effort, citing a desire to wait for a House Ethics Committee investigation to conclude. The congressman, meanwhile, has remained a near-constant source of embarrassment for his party’s leadership as senior lawmakers are constantly bombarded with questions related to their controversial freshman colleague.
Despite this, Mr Santos vows that he will run for re-election in 2024 and serve a second term if voters allow him to do so. Polls taken early in 2023 indicated that as many as seven in ten residents in his district believe he should resign.