Santos Says He Won’t Seek Reelection After Release of Ethics Report

Rep. George Santos, D-N.Y., speaking to reporters outside the federal courthouse in Central Islip, N.Y., last May. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

(The Washington Post) — House investigators found “substantial evidence” that Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) knowingly violated a litany of ethics and criminal laws, according to a House Ethics Committee report released Thursday that prompted Santos to declare he would not seek reelection next year.

“Representative Santos’ conduct warrants public condemnation, is beneath the dignity of the office, and has brought severe discredit upon the House,” Reps. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) and Susan Wild (D-Pa.), the committee’s chairman and senior Democrat, respectively, said in a joint statement.

The report recommended that the allegations against Santos be referred to the Justice Department but stopped short of calling for Santos’s expulsion from the House or other discipline. Guest told reporters Wednesday that recommending punishment for Santos would have taken the panel several more months. Instead, he said, the report would simply be publicly released so that lawmakers could read it and “take whatever action that they felt necessary.”

Santos railed against the ethics committee Thursday in a lengthy post on social media in which he called the report a “disgusting politicized smear” and said that he was being “stoned by those who have flaws themselves.” He added he would not be seeking re-election to a second term in 2024 after all, reversing course from a previous announcement in April that he would. Santos stepped down from his committee assignments in January.

According to the report, Santos was given an opportunity to submit to investigators a signed written statement responding to the allegations, but he did not do so. Santos also did not respond to the committee’s requests for documents, to voluntarily testify or to provide a statement under oath.

The long-awaited report lays out the conclusions of the committee’s months-long investigation in scathing language. According to the committee, investigators compiled more than 170,000 pages of documents and testimony from dozens of witnesses, including financial statements, to reach its conclusion.

“Representative Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit. He blatantly stole from his campaign. He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit,” the report stated.

It continued: “He reported fictitious loans to his political committees to induce donors and party committees to make further contributions to his campaign — and then diverted more campaign money to himself as purported ‘repayments’ of those fictitious loans. He used his connections to high value donors and other political campaigns to obtain additional funds for himself through fraudulent or otherwise questionable business dealings. And he sustained all of this through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience.”

Guest will file a motion to expel Santos Friday morning, according to a person familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. The House can consider the motion upon its return from its holiday break on Nov. 28.

By filing the expulsion motion himself, Guest adds credibility to the resolution after lawmakers were hesitant about voting to expel Santos earlier this month when the question was brought forth by fellow New York Republicans. Almost 200 Republicans and 31 Democrats voted against expelling Santos in fear that it would establish a precedent to oust lawmakers without receiving due process.

Hours before the House was set to vote on the expulsion resolution earlier this month, the House Ethics Committee stated its intention to release its report by Nov. 17, in a move considered by many lawmakers as a signal to temporarily postpone consideration of the measure and wait until the report is released.

At least two Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Robert Garcia (Calif.) and Dan Goldman (N.Y.), have said they will file privileged resolutions to expel Santos upon their return from Thanksgiving break, but it’s likely Republican leadership will prioritize the measure brought forth by Guest.

If removed by the House, Santos would be the first lawmaker expelled without having been convicted of a crime.

Santos was charged by federal prosecutors in May on 13 counts, including defrauding his donors, using their money for his personal benefit and wrongfully claiming unemployment benefits. In a superseding indictment made public in October, Santos was indicted on 10 additional charges, including stealing the identities of family members and using donors’ credit cards to spend thousands of dollars. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The initial indictment and Santos’s penchant for perpetuating alleged falsehoods — including a claim that he’s the grandson of Holocaust survivors and that he worked at companies that never employed him — led Democrats to pursue expelling him from the House. The matter was referred to the House Ethics Committee, where an evenly split panel of Republicans and Democrats had already been investigating Santos.

The House Ethics Committee announced its investigation in March, with its members voting unanimously to look into a long list of claims against Santos, including about his past business practices and campaign finance expenditures.

The committee expanded its investigation in June to include allegations that he fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits, which marked a departure from the panel’s typical practice of staying out of matters that coincide with federal charges against lawmakers. And at the end of October, the committee said in a statement that its investigation’s jurisdiction included the “23 counts charged over two indictments, as well as multiple allegations of criminal and ethical violations that are beyond the scope of the indictments.”

The federal charges — with the second batch coming while House Republicans were debating electing a speaker to replace the ousted Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — also motivated five Republican freshmen from New York to introduce an expulsion resolution to be considered by relevant committees. The motion failed earlier this month.

During his tenure as House speaker, McCarthy repeatedly said Santos deserved due process. Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), has also said Santos deserves due process while acknowledging the difficult spot Republicans are in because of their “razor-thin majority” in the chamber.

Appearing on Fox News the day after his election as speaker, Johnson was asked by host Sean Hannity whether he supported the censure or removal of Santos or Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who at the time faced calls to be censured over her comments related to Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza. Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, was ultimately censured earlier this month.

“Here’s the reality … we have a four-seat majority in the House,” Johnson said. “It is possible that number may be reduced even more in the coming weeks and months and so we’ll have what may be the most razor-thin majority in the history of the Congress. We have no margin for error and so George Santos is due due process, right?”

“We have to allow due process to play itself out,” he continued, referring to Santos’s case. “That’s what our system of justice is for … if we’re going to expel people from Congress just because they’re charged with a crime, or accused, that’s a problem.”

Two individuals in Santos’s orbit pleaded guilty in recent months to charges related to campaign actions.

Last month, former Santos treasurer Nancy Marks pleaded guilty to filing false reports with the Federal Election Commission. And earlier this week, an aide to Santos pleaded guilty to a federal charge of fraud in connection with a scheme that included impersonating the then-chief of staff for McCarthy to attract donors to Santos’s campaign.

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