Santos Faces New Expulsion Push Led by His Own Party After Damning Report

The Republican chairman of the bipartisan House Ethics Committee introduced a resolution on Friday to expel Representative George Santos of New York from Congress, citing the committee’s damning new report documenting violations of House rules and evidence of pervasive campaign fraud.

The move by Representative Michael Guest of Mississippi, the committee’s chairman, laid the groundwork for a pivotal vote after Thanksgiving that could make Mr. Santos only the sixth representative to be ejected in the chamber’s history.

“The evidence uncovered in the Ethics Committee’s investigative subcommittee investigation is more than sufficient to warrant punishment,” Mr. Guest said in a statement accompanying his five-page resolution. “And the most appropriate punishment is expulsion.”

Mr. Santos, a Republican, has survived two expulsion efforts after a crush of reports in The New York Times and other publications exposed his fabricated life story and federal prosecutors charged him with 23 felonies.

But support for Mr. Santos appeared to be eroding on Friday, as dozens of lawmakers in both parties indicated that the ethics report — showing how he spent tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions on Botox, Ferragamo goods and vacations — was the final straw for a lawmaker who has caused a year’s worth of political headaches.

Mr. Santos, 35, now faces a crucial decision: whether to stay and fight a potentially humiliating ouster, or pre-emptively resign in hopes of currying favor with prosecutors.

Leaving Congress would mean giving up his $174,000 annual salary as legal bills pile up. His financial situation will not be eased by a congressional pension, either; members must serve five years to receive one.

He has been unrepentant thus far, slamming the investigation on Thursday as a “politicized smear” and pledging to continue to serve his constituents for as long as he was allowed. But in an apparent effort to head off an expulsion fight, he announced he would not seek another term in his Long Island and Queens district.

The threshold for expulsion is high: two-thirds of the chamber would have to vote in favor of removal. Many of those who opposed earlier expulsion efforts had said they were concerned that removing Mr. Santos based simply on media reports and unproven criminal charges would set a dangerous precedent.

By offering authoritative conclusions about some of Mr. Santos’s conduct, Thursday’s ethics report seemed to assuage those concerns. The number of lawmakers supporting removal began climbing quickly, and now includes nearly every Republican from Mr. Santos’s home state.

“He should immediately resign or be expelled so his constituents can be represented by someone who isn’t a fraud,” said Representative Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican from Staten Island who had opposed earlier expulsion efforts.

Representative Jamie Raskin, an influential Democrat from Maryland, said he had opposed earlier censures of Mr. Santos to avoid setting a precedent “of expelling people based on intuition, without criminal convictions or formal disciplinary findings.”

“Now that those findings have been made of very serious misconduct in his case,” Mr. Raskin added, “our duty seems clear.”

Another Democrat who had previously opposed expulsion, Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut, told The Times on Friday that Mr. Santos had now had all the due process he deserved and should go.

Another expulsion vote would also pose an early test for Speaker Mike Johnson, the new Republican leader, who had previously suggested that it would be premature to eject Mr. Santos with a criminal case underway. Mr. Santos has been a political drag on the party, but Republicans can scarcely afford to lose his seat given their razor-thin House majority.

In a statement on Thursday evening, Mr. Johnson declined to give Mr. Santos cover. He called the report “very troubling,” and urged members of both parties to “consider the best interests of the institution.”

Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 4 House Republican who once boosted Mr. Santos’s candidacy, had not commented on the report or his future as of Friday afternoon.

In New York, leaders in both parties were already deep into deliberations about a possible special election to fill Mr. Santos’s seat early next year. President Biden won the seat by eight points in 2020, but Republicans have dominated the area since then.

If Mr. Santos were to step down or be removed, his seat would be subject to a special election scheduled by Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York. Local party leaders generally pick their nominees in special elections.

The Republican Party chairman in Nassau County renewed calls for Mr. Santos to resign, and has been vetting possible candidates for months.

Democratic leaders have privately indicated that they would most likely put forward Thomas R. Suozzi, who held the seat before Mr. Santos but gave it up to run for governor.

Only five members of the House have been expelled in the body’s history. Three of them were expelled in the Civil War era for supporting the Confederacy. Two others — Michael J. Myers in 1980 and James A. Traficant Jr. in 2002 — were convicted in criminal court before being expelled.

The 56-page report released on Thursday covered now-familiar ground about Mr. Santos, but it laid out vivid new details about how he fabricated an entire campaign biography and then “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.” The report cited extensive records, including text and email messages, bank statements and other financial documents that had not previously been made public.

It concluded there was “substantial evidence” that Mr. Santos broke federal law and violated House rules.

In its report, the committee, made up of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, seemed to signal that it viewed this case as unlike any that had come before it. The report said that lawmakers had considered a request by federal prosecutors to pause their work, but had decided to proceed anyway because of a “duty to safeguard the integrity of the House and the interests of justice.”

Mr. Guest’s expulsion resolution on Friday broadly echoed that sentiment and the committee’s findings.

“Given his egregious violations, Representative George Santos is not fit to serve as a member of the United States House of Representatives,” the resolution said.

The post Santos Faces New Expulsion Push Led by His Own Party After Damning Report appeared first on New York Times.

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