During the summer, Congressman George Santos sought a venue to hold a town hall meeting with constituents, but his attempts to schedule those public meetings in Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay were denied.
On Sept. 15 he announced a town hall to be held on Sept. 22 at the Westbury Public Library. The event was cancelled “due to Congress being in session,” Pat Young, Santos’ press secretary wrote in an email. When asked by The Point whether a new date has been set, Young replied, “Not yet.”
Ironically, right after Santos cancelled the public meeting, Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he hoped to keep members in Washington for a weekend session regarding the GOP threat of a partial government shutdown that would begin on Oct. 1. Chaos ensued, and McCarthy decided not to call them into session until Sept. 25.
Santos has been at the center of controversy since allegations surfaced of him falsifying his background during his campaign. The embattled lawmaker currently faces 13 federal criminal charges related to alleged financial crimes, but he’s not the only elected official facing indictment charges.
Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, and his wife, have joined Santos, charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. The bribes the couple received include “cash, gold bars, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle and other items of value,” the indictment alleges. Prosecutors allege that Menendez, along with his wife, Nadine, accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to assist three New Jersey businessmen and interests in Egypt. Federal authorities found nearly $500,000 in cash and $100,000 in gold at the couple’s residence during a raid last year, the alleged payment for the bribes.
Santos said the senator should not resign from his position amid the recent indictment on federal charges.
“He’s innocent until proven guilty,” Santos initially told NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Julie Tsirkin at the U.S. Capitol. “The media has to stop acting like everybody is guilty before they’re even judged by a jury. So, no, I think everybody is innocent until proven guilty. When did we walk away from the fabric of our Constitution that everybody has a presumption of innocence before anything else? So, no, I don’t think he should resign.”
In an unlikely alignment, Democrat Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Santos were quick to offer support for the embattled senator to stay in office even as fellow Democrats, led by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, called for his resignation.
Both Santos and Menendez have denied the charges against them and insisted they will not resign as their separate cases play out in the courts. They have both echoed the sentiment that their calls for resignation are akin to a “smear campaign.”
The news surrounding Menendez financial entanglements seems to have overshadowed Santos missed deadline to submit a key financial disclosure report to the House Committee on Ethics, a months-long delay the embattled New York Republican blamed on his federal taxes and the desire to avoid inaccuracies in the findings. The disclosure is meant to provide a public snapshot of the representative’s personal finances.
In an emailed statement to the Associated Press, Santos acknowledged being tardy, but said he would “rather be late, accurate and pay the fine than be on time, inaccurate, and suffer the consequences of a rushed job.”
He received a 90-day extension for the House financial disclosure in May, and then missed the due date in August. At the time, he said he planned to file the disclosure within a 30-day grace period permitted by the federal government.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said he won’t support Santos in his bid for re-election, but has not called for Santos to resign, saying he believed in due process. However, McCarthy has called for Menendez’ resignation.