Wednesday, February 21, 2024

George Santos expelled from Congress in historic House vote

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Washington — The House on Friday voted to expel embattled Republican Rep. George Santos from Congress, bringing an end to a tumultuous tenure in Washington that was defined by scandal from the start. 

In their third attempt to oust him since May, House lawmakers voted 311 to 114 in favor of the expulsion resolution. Two members voted present, and eight members did not vote. The resolution required a two-thirds majority to pass.

“The clerk will notify the governor of the state of New York of the action of the House,” Speaker Mike Johnson announced from the House dais. “The chair announces that in light of the expulsion of the gentleman from New York, Mr. Santos, the whole number of the House is 434.”

Dozens of Santos’ colleagues were apparently swayed by a damning report from the House Ethics Committee released two weeks ago that found there was “substantial evidence” that Santos repeatedly broke the law. Santos brazenly embellished his biography to win his seat in Congress last year and now faces nearly two dozen federal charges related to alleged fraud and illegal use of campaign funds.

The bipartisan vote makes Santos just the sixth House member in U.S. history to be expelled and the first in more than 20 years. Rep. James Traficant was removed from office in 2002 after being convicted of 10 corruption-related felonies. 

Ahead of Friday’s vote, the House GOP leadership, including Johnson and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, said they opposed removing Santos. Johnson said earlier this week he has “reservations” about the precedent expelling Santos may set without a criminal conviction, but said members should vote their conscience.

The expulsion takes effect immediately, and narrows Republicans’ already thin majority in the House. 

Santos has said he would wear his expulsion “like a badge of honor.” 

Beryl TV  George Santos expelled from Congress in historic House vote Politics
Rep. George Santos holds a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023.

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images


“We live in times where political expedience is more important than process,” he said last week. “Due process is dead. Due process has evaporated.” 

The allegations against Santos

Santos’ surprise victory in the 2022 midterm elections helped Republicans capture control of the House, but he quickly became an embarrassment for the party when he was found to have fabricated or exaggerated large portions of his biography. 

He also attracted the attention of federal investigators, who charged him with fraud, money laundering and other crimes in May. The scope of the case expanded in October, when he was hit with more charges accusing him of stealing his campaign donors’ identities and racking up thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges on their credit cards, falsifying campaign finance reports, money laundering and more. He has pleaded not guilty to all 23 federal charges he now faces.

The Ethics Committee began its own investigation in the spring, and on Nov. 16 released a scathing 56-page report that detailed a broad array of alleged misconduct. According to investigators, Santos allegedly stole money from his campaign, reported fictitious loans, deceived donors and engaged in fraudulent business dealings. 

The situation, the report said, “is unprecedented in many respects.” 

“While it is not uncommon for Committee investigations to involve multiple allegations and a pattern of misconduct, the sheer scope of the violations at issue here is highly unusual and damning,” it said. 

According to the report, Santos funneled large sums of money through his campaign and businesses to pay for his personal expenses. Investigators said he used the funds to pay for Botox injections and make purchases at high-end stores like Hermès and Ferragamo. They said he used campaign money to make payments on the adult website OnlyFans, and for meals, parking, travel and rent. He also allegedly diverted money to pay down his personal credit cards. 

Santos “sustained all of this through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience,” the report said, adding that “his misrepresentations and lack of transparency have continued during his tenure in Congress.”

Noting the slew of embellishments that Santos repeatedly made about his education, career, family history and even the death of his mother, investigators said his “own campaign staff viewed him as a ‘fabulist,’ whose penchant for telling lies was so concerning that he was encouraged to seek treatment.” 

Investigators also alleged Santos repeatedly ignored his staffers’ warnings about issues with his campaign’s bookkeeping. His campaign’s ex-treasurer, Nancy Marks, pleaded guilty in October to a scheme to embellish his campaign finance reports. While Santos has blamed Marks for the campaign finance violations, investigators said Santos “was aware of how she was reporting personal loans” and “he was actively involved in the campaign’s day-to-day finances.” 

The effort to expel Santos

The third attempt to expel Santos came just weeks after he survived a second effort to oust him from Congress. 

In May, Santos withstood his first expulsion attempt, when Democrats sought to remove him from Congress after he was first charged. Republicans blocked that effort and instead referred the matter to the Ethics Committee. 

Five GOP lawmakers from the Empire State — all facing competitive races next year — renewed the effort to expel him in October after he was hit with more charges, calling it a “moral” issue that transcended short-term political considerations. But the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed under the Constitution to oust a member, since most Republicans and 31 Democrats withheld support for punishing him while the Ethics Committee investigation and his criminal trial proceeded. 

The release of the Ethics Committee report opened the floodgates for lawmakers to embrace expelling Santos. Republican Rep. Michael Guest of Mississippi, the chairman of the Ethics Committee, introduced a resolution to oust him before lawmakers left Washington for Thanksgiving. Once the House returned, Rep. Robert Garcia, a Democrat from California, introduced a separate resolution as “privileged,” meaning the House would be required to vote on it within two days. 

“This forces a vote this week,” Garcia told reporters Tuesday, saying he had doubts that Republicans would actually move forward with a vote on Guest’s resolution. 

But Republicans did move forward. GOP Rep. Anthony D’Esposito of New York brought up Guest’s resolution as privileged, and a vote was scheduled for Friday. 

“This is bullying,” Santos said Thursday of Guest’s measure.

Pennsylvania Rep. Susan Wild, the top Democrat on the Ethics Committee, said later Thursday that Santos “is not a victim.” 

“He is a perpetrator of a massive fraud on his constituents and the American people,” she said. 

Santos had long rebuffed calls to resign. Doing so before the vote, he said, would amount to him admitting to the allegations detailed in the Ethics Committee’s report while also giving his colleagues an out.

“I hear a lot the line, ‘I encourage Rep. Santos to resign. Do the right thing, which is resign.’ What I hear is people don’t want to take this vote,” Santos said Thursday. 

One day after the report’s release, he said he would not run for reelection in 2024 after all. 

His criminal trial is set to begin Sept. 9. 

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