George Santos on whether he’d take a plea deal: ‘Look, right now, no’

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) on Friday said he would not take a plea deal “right now” in the federal case where he faces 13 criminal charges related to alleged financial crimes. 

“Look, right now? No,” Santos said when asked in an interview with FOX 5’s “Good Day New York” if he would take a plea deal. “Right now, I’m fighting to prove my innocence, and I think that’s what everybody should do.”

“You have the burden of proving innocence and I think you should go fight for that,” he added.

Federal prosecutors allege Santos was part of three schemes, including misleading campaign donors, fraudulently receiving unemployment benefits and lying on financial disclosures. He was arrested in May and pleaded not guilty to 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 U.S. House of Representatives.

The embattled lawmaker was released from custody while he awaits trial. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

Santos is accused of directing an unnamed individual to tell campaign donors their money would go towards advertisements  for his campaign, while they were actually used for personal expenses — like paying off personal debts or purchasing designer clothing. 

Federal prosecutors also allege Santos fraudulently received over $24,000 in unemployment benefits and made false statements to the House of Representatives in financial disclosure reports in May 2020 and September 2022 during his congressional campaigns. 

The freshman lawmaker has faced scrutiny over his background and admitted in December to lying abut his education and work experience. He continued Friday to defend his “embellished resume,” claiming he did not post his resume on his social media or website during his campaign.  

“A lot of people have those insecurities,” Santos said. “Actually, studies show that most people lie on their resumes. It’s just unfortunately, it’s the reality.” 

Santos pushed back against claims that fighting against the charges is a distraction.

“It’s a distraction if you don’t have a legal team, I have a legal team, that’s their job. My job is to work right? I’m not a lawyer, I’m not putting my defense, I’m not going through discovery, that’s my attorney’s job and they’re doing that.”

Both sides of the aisle have called for Santos’ resignation, including Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, who earlier said he will not back Santos’ reelection bid. 

“Here’s how I look at it – I represent the third district of New York and I respect the speaker a whole ton,” Santos said Friday. “That’s his opinion. The opinion that matters at the end of the day is the people who cast their vote at the ballot box.”

“I want to be judged by the people who elected me,” he added.

When asked if having the respect of the people he works with is important to him, the New York lawmaker said, “Never, no to be quite honest.” 

Santos’s next court date is scheduled for Sept. 7.

Tags George Santos Kevin McCarthy New York