Rep. George Santos won't seek re-election following scathing House Ethics report

The House Ethics Committee found "substantial evidence" that Santos broke multiple laws and will refer its findings, including new "uncharged" conduct, to the Justice Department.

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WASHINGTON — Embattled Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., said Thursday he will not seek re-election next year after the House Ethics Committee released a scathing report that concluded there is “substantial evidence” he “violated federal criminal laws,” including using campaign funds for personal purposes and filing false campaign reports.

"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 as my family deserves better than to be under the gun from the press all the time," Santos said in a statement on X.

In its wide-ranging 56-page report, the Ethics subcommittee tasked with investigating Santos found "a complex web of unlawful activity involving Representative Santos’ campaign, personal, and business finances. Representative Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit."

"He blatantly stole from his campaign. He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit. He reported fictitious loans to his political committees to induce donors and party committees to make further contributions to his campaign—and then diverted more campaign money to himself as purported 'repayments' of those fictitious loans," the report continues.

Santos "used his connections to high-value donors and other political campaigns" to enrich himself, the report contends. "And he sustained all of this through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience," it says.

In addition, the report says Santos was “frequently in debt, had an abysmal credit score, and relied on an ever-growing wallet of high-interest credit cards to fund his luxury spending habits." He also made large cash deposits that he has not accounted for and made nearly a quarter-million dollars in cash withdrawals for unknown purposes, the report alleges.

Specifically, the Ethics panel detailed a host of suspicious campaign expenditures it said did not appear to have a “campaign nexus.” They included spending at Hermès and Ferragamo stores and on an Airbnb while Santos was on a Hamptons weekend getaway, Botox treatments and OnlyFans, a subscription-based site often used to host pornography.

The Ethics Committee said it is referring its findings, including "uncharged" conduct, to the Justice Department. It did not make a recommendation to the House.

Expulsion gaining steam

The damning report has revived bipartisan efforts to oust Santos from office. Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest, R-Miss., plans to file a resolution to expel him from Congress on Friday morning, a spokesman confirmed. And Democrats, including Reps. Dan Goldman of New York and Robert Garcia of California, said they would file their own expulsion resolutions.

Santos easily survived an effort to expel him this month; 179 members voted in favor of expulsion and 213 against, and 19 voted present. A high threshold — two-thirds of lawmakers — is needed to remove him from the House.

But a handful of Democrats and Republicans who voted against expulsion last time, arguing that Santos deserved due process, now say they would vote to remove him based on the evidence in the report. They include Reps. Jeff Jackson, D-N.C., Chris Deluzio, D-Pa., Zach Nunn, R-Iowa, and Ken Buck, R-Colo.

"Rep. Santos has received his due process. This report is fully damning. I will vote to expel him," Jackson said.

Santos’ fellow New York Republicans, many of them moderates who face tough re-election bids next year, had led the charge to expel him. On Thursday, they reiterated their calls for him to resign or be expelled.

“George Santos should end this farce and resign immediately,” Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., who is in his first term, like Santos, said on X. “If he refuses, he must be removed from Congress. His conduct is not only unbecoming and embarrassing, it is criminal.”

The Ethics report “is in alignment with my long held belief that this fraudster has no place serving in the People’s House,” Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, R-N.Y., said in a statement, “and I once again call on my colleagues to join me in advocating for George Santos’ expulsion from Congress.”

Federal charges and staff pleas

The Justice Department has already charged Santos with multiple federal counts, including identity theft, money laundering and theft of public funds. He is set to go on trial in September and has pleaded not guilty.

A former campaign fundraiser for Santos, Sam Miele, pleaded guilty to wire fraud Tuesday. In his plea, Miele acknowledged having posed as former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's chief of staff while he was trying to raise money for Santos. He also admitted that he charged donors' credit cards without authorization for contributions to Santos' campaign. He did not implicate Santos in his plea, and his attorney would not say whether he is cooperating with the federal investigation into Santos.

Santos' former campaign treasurer Nancy Marks also pleaded guilty last month to charges that did implicate him in wrongdoing, including falsifying campaign forms so he could get matching funds he was not entitled to. Information from Marks, who was Santos' treasurer in his 2020 and 2022 campaigns, was used for last month's superseding indictment against Santos. The Ethics panel's report refers to numerous emails and text exchanges between the pair, which it said indicate that Santos was well aware of the scheme.

'I am human and I have flaws'

Santos, 35, has rejected calls for his resignation, but it has been clear that months of media scrutiny, political pressure and mounting legal problems have been taking a personal toll on the freshman fabulist.

“I will remain steadfast in fighting for my rights and for defending my name in the face of adversity," Santos said Thursday on X. "I am humbled yet again and reminded that I am human and I have flaws, but I will not stand by as I am stoned by those who have flaws themselves."

The Ethics Committee said that Santos did not cooperate with the probe and that he provided only limited responses that included "misstatements" and "falsehoods."

Ethics investigators said they opted not to subpoena Santos, determining that doing so could have delayed their probe and that his testimony would have "low evidentiary value given his admitted practice of embellishment.”

Led by Reps. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, and Susan Wild, D-Pa., the subcommittee met nine times, authorized 37 subpoenas and 43 voluntary requests for information, and received over 172,000 pages of documents.

The report said Santos did cooperate in response to one aspect of the investigation concerning allegations that he had sexually harassed someone seeking a job in his congressional office. Santos provided a “robust response” to the allegations, and the person’s testimony contradicted that of other witnesses, undermining his credibility, the report said.

The Ethics subcommittee “finds no substantial reason to believe Santos sexually harassed or discriminated against a prospective employee,” the report said.