In his closing arguments for remaining a member of the House, a defiant Representative George Santos depicted himself as a victim of a smear campaign by some of his colleagues and made clear that he would not resign before a vote Friday on whether he should be expelled.
The first-term Republican congressman from New York could well become just the sixth member of the House to have been ousted by colleagues. While Santos survived two earlier expulsion efforts, a critical House Ethics Committee report released on November 16 has convinced more members that his actions merit the House’s most severe punishment.
“I will not stand by quietly,” Santos said during Thursday afternoon’s debate on the House floor. “The people of the Third District of New York sent me here. If they want me out, you’re going to have to go silence those people and go take the hard vote.”
‘This will haunt them,’ says Santos
Of the previous expulsions in the House, three were for disloyalty to the Union during the Civil War and two were for lawmakers convicted in federal court. Santos appealed to those lawmakers who worry that a new precedent is being set for the chamber’s harshest punishment.
“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 during a press conference held early in the morning before House debate began.
Santos was a bright spot for the Republican Party 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.
The indictment 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 wired some of the money to his personal bank account and used the rest to pad his campaign coffers.
Santos has pleaded not guilty.
Panel says it has evidence of lawbreaking
Meanwhile, Ethics Committee investigators spent eight months on the Santos case. The panel said it amassed “overwhelming evidence” of lawbreaking by Santos that it sent to the Justice Department. Among other things, 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 with his financial disclosure statements.
The disgraceful association that comes with 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.”
Members of the Republican delegation from New York led the arguments for expelling Santos. Representative Anthony D’Esposito acknowledged that the expulsion would set a new precedent, but he said he was confident the American people would welcome lawmakers being held to a higher standard.
Arguing against expulsion, Louisiana Republican Representative Clay Higgins said that while he respects the Ethics Committee, he had concerns about how the Santos case was handled. He said he was troubled that a Republican-led committee would submit a report that was so judgmental and publicized.
While the Ethics Committee does have a Republican chairman, its membership is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.