WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Embattled Republican U.S. Representative George Santos said today he will not run for re-election in an announcement made shortly after a damning report by his fellow lawmakers referred “additional uncharged and unlawful conduct” to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution.
Santos, 35, a first-term New York Republican, already has pleaded not guilty in a federal criminal case in which he was charged with laundering campaign funds to pay for personal expenses and charging the credit cards of donors without permission, among other campaign finance violations.
The report by the House of Representatives Ethics Committee issued earlier in the day found more questionable financial activity, prompting some of his fellow Republicans to call for his expulsion.
Santos said he will not step down.
“I will continue on my mission to serve my constituents up until I am allowed. I will however NOT be seeking re-election for a second term in 2024,” Santos said in a social media post. “My family deserves better than to be under the gun from the press all the time.”
The ethics panel’s Republican chairman, Michael Guest, intends to file a motion on Friday to expel him from Congress, according to media reports. Lawmakers could take the motion up after next week’s Thanksgiving holiday break, the Washington Post reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
Santos survived an expulsion vote this month, but the committee report prompted several lawmakers to say they would vote to remove him if given another chance.
Santos came under scrutiny even before taking office in January after the New York Times and other media outlets reported he had fabricated much of his life story.
Two of Santos’ former aides already have pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations.
In addition to the conduct outlined in the federal charges, the ethics panel said it found evidence of falsely reported loans received by Santos’ failed 2020 campaign, improper loan repayments and “systemic reporting errors” in both his 2020 and 2022 campaigns.
The report found that Santos “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.”
The committee said it contacted about 40 witnesses, reviewed more than 170,000 pages of documents, and filed 37 subpoenas in an investigation that took several months. It said Santos declined to cooperate with the investigation.
A Department of Justice spokesperson declined to comment.
CALLS FOR EXPULSION
Santos has been marginalized in Congress, where he has no committee assignments and little influence. He has faced especially fierce criticism from his fellow New York Republicans in Congress. One of them, Representative Mike Lawler, said on Thursday Santos should resign immediately or be forced out.
“His conduct is not only unbecoming and embarrassing, it is criminal,” Lawler said.
On Nov. 1, 182 of his fellow Republicans voted against his expulsion, as they need his seat to protect their narrow 221-213 margin. That slim majority gives them the power to block much of Democratic President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
But that dam could be breaking. Republican Representative Ashley Hinson, who voted against expulsion, said she now would back his removal.
The ethics panel’s top Democrat, Representative Susan Wild, said since the report was released she was no longer obligated to remain neutral, and would also vote to expel him.
Santos has dismissed complaints that he had lied about his education, work history and family as mere resume embellishment. Among other claims, Santos said he had degrees from New York University and Baruch College in Manhattan, despite neither institution having any record of him attending. He claimed to have worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, also untrue.
He said falsely that he was Jewish and that his grandparents escaped the Nazis during World War Two.
Santos apologized for “embellishing” his resume, while defending aspects of the way he had represented himself. He has since described himself as “Jew-ish” rather than “Jewish” when discussing his heritage, telling the New York Post that he described himself that way because his “maternal family had a Jewish background.”
The Ethics Committee highlighted his repeated lies as a reason to expedite its investigation, pointing out that Santos’ testimony, which he declined to voluntarily give, “would have low evidentiary value given his admitted practice of embellishment.”
Santos’ congressional district contains parts of New York City’s Queens borough and Long Island’s Nassau County just east of the city.
Reporting by Moira Warburton; additional reporting by Andrew Goudsward, Gram Slattery and Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Will Dunham and and Andy Sullivan
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