WASHINGTON (AP) — A defiant Rep. George Santos is refusing to resign and warned on Thursday that his expulsion from Congress before being convicted in a court of law would establish a precedent that “is going to be the undoing of a lot of members of this body.”
Watch Santos’ remarks in the player above.
The first-term Republican congressman from New York could well become just the sixth member of the House to have been expelled by colleagues. Republicans and Democrats have offered resolutions to remove him, and the House is expected to vote on one of them Friday.
While Santos survived two earlier expulsion efforts, a critical House Ethics Committee report released on Nov. 16 has convinced more members that his actions merit the House’s most severe punishment.
Santos preempted the vote with a press conference just outside the Capitol early Thursday. He noted that, of the previous expulsions, three were for disloyalty to the Union during the Civil War and two were for lawmakers who had been convicted in federal court. In short, he presented himself as someone who was being treated differently.
“This will haunt them in the future where mere allegations are sufficient to have members removed from office when duly elected by their people in their respective states and districts,” Santos said.
The House Ethics Committee said it had amassed “overwhelming evidence” of lawbreaking by Santos that had been sent to the Justice Department. The report concluded flatly that he “cannot be trusted” after a monthslong investigation into his conduct.
The panel said that Santos knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports with the Federal Election Commission, used campaign funds for personal purposes and violated the Ethics in Government Act concerning financial disclosure statements filed with the House.
Santos also faces a 23-count federal indictment that alleges he stole the identities of campaign donors and then used their credit cards to make tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. Federal prosecutors say Santos, who has pleaded not guilty, wired some of the money to his personal bank account and used the rest to pad his campaign coffers.
Santos was a bright spot for the GOP when he won his election in November 2022, flipping a seat that had been held by the Democrats and helping Republicans take control of the House. But, soon after, reports began to emerge that Santos had lied about having Jewish ancestry, a career at top Wall Street firms and a college degree. He turned into a distraction and an embarrassment to his party.
In early March, the House Ethics Committee announced it was launching an investigation into Santos. That was followed in May when the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York unveiled a 13-count federal indictment that was later replaced with the 23-count indictment.
Santos easily survived an expulsion vote in early November, before the Ethics Committee unveiled its findings. The vote was 179 for expulsion and 213 against, with 41 others voting present or not voting.
The vote on Friday will mark the third expulsion effort of his short tenure in Congress. Expulsion from the House requires a two-thirds vote, a high bar.
“It’s just an unfortunate circumstance that I have to sit here and watch Congress waste the American people’s time over and over again on something that is the power of the people, not the power of Congress,” Santos said.
The history behind expulsion was not lost on Santos, but rather than seek to avoid it by resigning, he sought to frame it as an unfair persecution, saying “if I leave, they win. If I leave, the bullies take place. This is bullying.”
“They are trying to join me to the group of three Confederates and two people convicted in a court of law,” Santos said. “So, if I am to be expelled tomorrow, I will be number six in the history, the first Republican and the only one without a conviction or without having committed treason.”
He also assailed the Ethics Committee report as “littered in hyperbole, littered in opinion.” He emphasized the decision by the committee to submit the report to the House without making a recommendation on punishment. Submitting a recommendation would have required a longer, trial-like process. “Changing precedent for me, it seems that it’s all fair game,” Santos said.
As part of his claim of being treated differently, he said he would be offering a privileged resolution on the House floor on Thursday to expel Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman from office. Bowman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count for triggering a fire alarm as lawmakers scrambled to pass a funding bill before a government shutdown deadline.
Bowman will pay a $1,000 fine and serve three months of probation, after which the false fire alarm charge is expected to be dismissed from his record under an agreement with prosecutors.
“Let’s hold our own accountable,” Santos said, “but let’s make sure we do it with the precedent of the House.”
Bowman replied in a press release that no one in Congress or anywhere else in America “takes soon-to-be former Congressman George Santos seriously.”
“This,” Bowman said, “is just another meaningless stunt in his long history of cons, antics, and outright fraud.”
House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said he had “real reservations” about the expulsion of Santos. He said he was concerned about the precedent it would set, but he also said that GOP leadership is telling members to “vote their conscience.”
Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York held his weekly press conference with a massive photo next to him of Santos and Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia sitting in the House chamber together and laughing.
“George Santos is a malignant distraction, and hopefully that issue gets resolved,” Jeffries said.
Associated Press staff writer Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.
First appeared on www.pbs.org