Ever since it first came out that George Santos’ endless string of personal and professional lies had included financial fraud, it seemed likely he’d end up indicted for it. Lying to the public isn’t automatically a crime, but stealing money is. And from the moment it was reported several months ago that the DOJ was criminally investigating Santos, his indictment seemed like almost a given.
After all, once you’re under federal criminal investigation, it’s just a matter of whether the DOJ ends up concluding that there’s enough evidence to get a jury to convict at trial. And financial crimes tend to leave the kind of paper trial that it makes a conviction comparatively easy.
So it’s not surprising that George Santos has now been indicted and arrested by the DOJ. This was almost inevitable. The only real questions were how long it would take the case to come together, and how broad the charges would be. The answer to the latter question has turned out to be interesting.
Santos has been hit with thirteen federal criminal charges, including wire fraud, money laundering, and theft of public funds. That’s a big step up for a two-bit con artist whose prior claims to fame included “smaller” crimes like stealing a checkbook and stealing money earmarked for a sick dog.
Remember the $750,000 that George Santos appeared to make from a Ponzi scheme company, then dump into his own fake Florida company, then funnel through his campaign? It turns out that money is very much a part of this criminal probe – but even the Feds aren’t (yet) saying why. Instead the Feds are simply stating in this indictment that Santos lied on his congressional financial forms about where the $750,000 came from, and that it in fact did not come from his own company.
The New York Times thinks this means that the Feds are still investigating that $750,000 money trail, which means that Santos could potentially end up facing even more charges. My own thought is that perhaps there are other criminal targets involved in this $750,000 scheme, who haven’t yet been indicted.
On the other hand, LA Times legal expert Harry Litman tweeted that he suspects the DOJ may have decided to indict George Santos right now, even with the criminal case not yet complete, because Santos recently announced a 2024 reelection campaign. When the DOJ is criminally indicting a political candidate, it likes to get it out of the way before an election cycle gets serious.
That is enough to make you think that the DOJ’s Jack Smith could be operating along the same terms. He certainly has a “drop dead” date circled on his calendar by which he knows he has to criminally indict Donald Trump in order to make 100% sure it gets to trial before the 2024 election. But if the DOJ was indeed in a rush to indict Santos before the election cycle can heat up, it suggests that Jack Smith could be looking to indict Trump well before the 2024 cycle gets underway. In other words, indicting Trump in June 2023 seems more likely than, say, indicting Trump in October 2023.
In any case, the DOJ was able to investigate George Santos, subpoena whatever it needed, put any necessary witnesses in front of a grand jury, and bring an indictment, all without the media or the public hearing about a single word of it until last night. Of course the Santos probe was simpler and more contained than most, which is why it moved comparatively quickly (though again, it may still be ongoing). But it’s a reminder that just because there have been no headlines about a DOJ criminal probe into any given politician, it does not mean that probe doesn’t exist and isn’t advancing. Every corrupt politician should now be scared, from Donald Trump on down.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report