George Santos arrived in Washington. It was awkward.

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Politics

On the first day of the 118th Congress, the representative-elect, a Republican who made false statements about his background, education and finances, brought his saga to the Capitol.

Representative-elect George Santos (RN.Y.) Members of Congress Tuesday, January 3, 2023

WASHINGTON — With reporters trailing him as he tried and avoided members of his own party, George Santos, a Republican from New York, spent his first day in Congress as an outcast.

For weeks, Santos has been elusive, ignoring calls and texts, hiding out in Long Island and Queens, appearing only briefly for awkward interviews with conservative media and dodging questions about his geyser of lies. about his history, which became known after he flipped the Democratic seat on Long Island in November.

But on Tuesday, Santos could no longer hide.

Dozens of reporters waited outside his new office in the Longworth Building, asking him whether he owed his constituents an answer to the fictional character he created to win his seat, and whether he had responded to those manufacturers’ inquiries. produced.

Carrying a backpack and staring at her phone with two assistants by her side, Santos, 34, gave off the aura of a freshman who had just arrived at a new campus and was in desperate need of a menu.

He walked past his office before stepping back and closing the door behind him. He did not answer any questions.

Santos seemed exhausted. It was not even a dream.

His landing on Capitol Hill came on a tumultuous opening day of the 118th Congress, with Republicans worried about intraparty drama over who will be speaker and a far-right insurgency that was supposed to be the first day of victory for the GOP majority. . In a dysfunctional show on the house floor. Lawmakers and their aides could be heard snickering about who was having a bad day — Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, who fell three votes short of the presidency, or the newcomer from New York.

On Tuesday, Santos became a colorful symbol of Republican disarray — a newly elected young lawmaker who briefly seemed like a beacon of the party’s unexpected revival in a blue state. Now members of his party are distancing themselves from Santos, demanding more explanation for his behavior, and some are even calling for an ethics probe into the House.

“The guy who lied on his resume? Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., responded to a question about Santos as he left the morning conference call before the speaker’s vote. He said Santos “showed a lack of understanding of the truth.”

Santos appeared to get lost in the basement service corridors of the Capitol complex in the morning, chasing reporters. At one point, while looking for an elevator, a security guard pointed him in the direction he was coming.

Faced with a barrage of questions at every turn, Santos remained mum, saying only that she planned to vote for McCarthy, which she did several times.

Near the Capitol’s south entrance, Santos met her husband, Matt, and climbed the steps.

The day brought Santos his first glimpse of the ubiquitous press corps that roamed the Capitol freely as he navigated a new environment amid a scandal of his own making. At one point, he pretended to be heading for his office, and when he noticed the cameras waiting for him, he turned on his heels and walked in the opposite direction.

Santos has been under the shadow of active investigations by federal and local prosecutors into possible criminal activity during his two congressional campaigns. Prosecutors told The New York Times on Monday that Brazilian law enforcement agencies intend to reopen fraud charges against him in connection with a 2008 incident involving a stolen checkbook.

Democrats are already calling for him to step down, and members of his own party have raised questions about his behavior.

This included false claims about his upbringing, his Wall Street business connections and his philanthropic activities – all of which were revealed as part of a fictitious persona created as the basis of his speeches to voters.

In addition to his experience, Santos misrepresented his finances and provided incomplete or incorrect information to Congress. He also said he was Jewish and descended from Holocaust survivors. Santos is Catholic.

Federal and local prosecutors are investigating whether he made any crimes or misleading statements about his finances.

On Tuesday, Santos’ isolation was on display in the House chamber ahead of a much-anticipated vote by speakers. He sat alone in the back of the room, staring at his phone, even as a group of New York Republicans mingled not far from him.

Anthony D’Esposito, another newly elected Republican from Long Island, tied with Santos after winning the November races. The two appeared in several joint interviews on Fox News. But D’Esposito didn’t even come close to greeting Santos in his bedroom on Tuesday, talking to other New York Republicans.

Rep. Andrew Garbarino, another New York Republican, later tweeted a photo of members of the state’s Republican delegation with McCarthy on the House floor. “New York is home!” he wrote. Santos was not in the picture.

All in all, Santos’ awkward reception was the epitome of a glorious day for Republicans in Congress. The House speaker election turned into a ground battle, with a revolt among far-right lawmakers sparking the kind of chaos the House has seen in a century.

Santos, along with all other new members, could not be sworn in until a new president was elected. Members who brought their children and family members to the ward eventually sent their tired babies and toddlers home. Later generations witnessed McCarthy’s awkward situation, as he failed to win the presidency by a few votes, but did not see his family members take the oath of office.

Santos, the first openly gay Republican to take a seat in the House of Representatives as a non-incumbent, has yet to provide a full accounting to voters who elected him based largely on his fictional resume. He admitted that he “embellished” his biography and was not a graduate of any higher education institution.

At one point, he promised to tell his full story.

Despite their opposition to Santos, it was not yet clear what Republicans would do to punish him or how they would choose to behave after being sworn in. McCarthy had more pressing matters to deal with on Tuesday, including his own political future. So far, he has remained silent about Santos and his position at the Republican Conference.

For many Democrats who gleefully watched the commotion across the aisle, Santos was seen as a joke and an unflattering embodiment of the general partisan turmoil.

Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona said the enigmatic congressman could be the key to solving the impasse in the corridor.

“Santos for the Speaker – that’s all,” Gallego joked.

This article originally appeared on The New York Times.

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