Congress expels George Santos, the Republican lawmaker facing a 23-count indictment

The New York representative, who fabricated his resume, becomes the sixth member of the House expelled in U.S. history

U.S. Rep. George Santos
Republican Congressman George Santos on Thursday, during a press conference at the Capitol.ELIZABETH FRANTZ (REUTERS)

George Santos has gone down in U.S. congressional history through the door of scandals. The Republican lawmaker who lied non-stop during his election campaign, inventing a resume and a parallel life for himself, has been expelled by the House of Representatives in a vote in which a two-thirds majority was required. A large majority of Republicans and Democrats agreed that the situation was unsustainable for Santos, who is facing a 23-count federal indictment on charges that include various types of fraud and even identity theft.

Santos thus becomes the sixth member of the House to be expelled by his colleagues. The Constitution expressly grants each chamber of Congress the power to punish its members for disorderly conduct and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member, something that until now had been put into practice with 15 senators and 5 representatives, most of them for supporting secession and the Confederacy. The House had expelled two members since the days of the Civil War due to high-profile cases of corruption, but only after a sentence was handed down by a court.

On Thursday, Santos appealed to lawmakers concerned that a new precedent is being set. “This will haunt them in the future, where mere allegations are enough for members to be removed from their positions when they have been duly elected by their people in their respective states and districts,” he said in a news conference. Later, during the debate in the House, he seemed resigned: “The only thing I want to make clear is if tomorrow, when this vote is on the floor, it is in the conscience of all of my colleagues that they believe that this is the correct thing to do, so be it,” he said.

The New York congressman did not want to resign. “If I leave, they win. If I leave, the bullies take place. This is bullying,” he said at the news conference. Santos had previously survived two other expulsion votes, but the Ethics Committee report issued two weeks ago concluded that his conduct deserved public condemnation, that the congressman is below the dignity of the office, and that he has seriously discredited the House.

The report found “substantial evidence” that the lawmaker, who represents a district in Long Island and Queens, knowingly committed a series of ethical violations and possible crimes. Santos used campaign funds for personal purposes, such as purchases at luxury stores and adult content websites like OnlyFans, and then had the campaign team submit false or incomplete expense justifications, according to the report. Two members of his team had previously pleaded guilty.

Santos had announced that he would not run for re-election in November of next year, but refused to resign and still had a little more than a year left in his term. But he saw the end coming. “I know I’m going to get expelled when this expulsion resolution goes to the floor,” he said Friday night during a conversation on X Spaces. “I’ve done the math over and over, and it doesn’t look really good,” he added.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said he had “real reservations” about the expulsion of Santos because of the precedent it would set. He declared himself in favor of his party’s representatives “voting their conscience.” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries held a news conference with a huge photo of Santos and Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Donald Trump’s faithful supporter, sitting together and laughing in the House of Representatives. “George Santos is a malignant distraction, and hopefully that issue gets resolved,” Jeffries said Thursday.

Special election

His vacancy will now have to be filled in a special election in a district balanced between Republicans and Democrats, in which the now expelled representative won in November 2022 by an eight-point margin, but where Biden won the elections in 2020. Well known among the most radical circles of the Republican Party, Santos’ election was decisive in giving control of the House to the Republicans. It was also a wake-up call for the Democrats in New York, a traditional blue state.

In addition to making up a good part of his academic and professional resume, Santos filled his biography with striking details. One in particular, which the true victims do not forgive him for, was boasting of a false Jewish heritage and ties to the Holocaust, and of a mother who narrowly escaped from 9/11, when that day his mother wasn’t even in New York, but in Brazil. It so happens that many voters in his district are descendants of Holocaust victims, which led journalist Andrew Silverstein to investigate the veracity of his claims.

Silverstein exposed the fraud before it was picked up at the end of December by The New York Times, and the falsehoods immediately became a political fireball. Santos, who is openly gay, also angered the LGTBQ+ community by hiding the fact that he had had a marriage of convenience with a woman until 2019.

Under the mountain of lies, other behavior also began to emerge, such as stealing the money raised in a social media campaign for the dying dog of an Iraq war veteran; or having stolen a dog from an Amish dairy. It was not glamorous for someone who allegedly had degrees from New York University and Baruch College, as well as professional experience in the Wall Street firms Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. The fabrications match the image of someone with “delusions of grandeur,” according to a roommate’s description of him. The satisfaction of having been elected congressman was short-lived for Santos despite his lack of political experience. In January, he was sworn in at the Capitol as a representative for the prosperous district of Long Island.

The initial May indictment by a New York court included a dozen counts (wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to the House) which limited his movements to New York and Washington, with the obligation to request permission to travel. In October the counts were raised to 23.

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