November 16, 2023 - 8:25 am
Updated November 16, 2023 - 9:51 am
WASHINGTON — The House Ethics committee in a scathing report Thursday said it has amassed “overwhelming evidence” of lawbreaking by Republican Rep. George Santos of New York that has been sent to the Justice Department, concluding flatly that he “cannot be trusted” after a monthslong investigation into his conduct.
Shortly after the panel’s report was released, Santos blasted it in a tweet on X as a “politicized smear” but said he would not be seeking reelection to a second term. He gave no indication he would step aside before his term ends next year, vowing to pursue his “conservative values in my remaining time in Congress.”
But a renewed effort to expel him from the House was quickly launched. The House could vote on his expulsion as soon as it returns from the Thanksgiving holiday later this month.
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 financial disclosure statements filed with the House.
The ethics panel’s report also detailed Santos’ lack of cooperation with its investigation and how he “evaded” straightforward requests for information. “Particularly troubling was Representative Santos’ lack of candor during the investigation itself,” the committee determined.
The information that he did provide, according to the committee, “included material misstatements that further advanced falsehoods he made during his 2022 campaign.”
The report says that an investigative subcommittee decided to forgo taking steps that would have led to a lengthy sanctions hearing by the full Ethics panel, after which the panel could make recommendations about punishment to the full House. Instead, it urged House members “to take any action they deem appropriate and necessary” based on the report.
The findings by the investigative panel may be the least of Santos’ worries. The congressman 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, who represents parts of Queens and Long Island, is also accused of falsely reporting to the Federal Elections Commission that he had loaned his campaign $500,000 when he actually hadn’t given anything and had less than $8,000 in the bank. The fake loan was an attempt to convince Republican Party officials that he was a serious candidate, worth their financial support, the indictment says.
The Justice Department declined to comment about the ethics report, as did the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office, which is handling the case against Santos.
Earlier this week, a former fundraiser for Santos pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge, admitting he impersonated a high-ranking congressional aide while raising campaign cash for the embattled New York Republican.
Santos easily survived a vote earlier this month to expel him from the House as most Republicans and 31 Democrats opted to withhold punishment while both his criminal trial and the House Ethics Committee investigation continued.
Expulsion, the sternest form of punishment, has occurred just five times in the history of the House — three times during the Civil War for disloyalty to the Union and twice after convictions on federal charges, most recently in 2002.
Associated Press staff writers Stephen Groves, Farnoush Amiri and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.