DemDaily: Congress Expels Santos!

December 1, 2023

The US House of Representatives this morning voted to expel Republican Congressman George Santos (NY) -- only the sixth member in US history to receive the body's harshest punishment.

The final vote of 311 to 114 comes after the release of the House Ethics Committee's report on their six-month investigation of Santos, and a lengthy debate yesterday on the House floor.

All but two Democrats and 105 Republicans joined in supporting the ouster of the New York Congressman, who was elected in November 2022 to represent the North Long Island-based Third Congressional District.

A member of Congress may be removed upon a two-thirds vote by their colleagues. In addition to three representatives who were ousted in 1861 for siding with the Confederacy, only two members have been formally expelled: Michael Myers (D-PA), in 1980 after conviction for bribery during the FBI's Abscam operation; and Jim Traficant (D-OH), in 2002 after conviction for bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion. At least 7 others have resigned rather than face certain expulsion from their colleagues.

Santos, a Trump supporter who spoke at a "Stop the Steal" rally the day before the January 6 Capital insurrection, defeated Democrat Rob Zimmerman (D) 53.8% to 46.2% in 2022 after having unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Thomas Suozzi (D) in 2020.

Just six weeks after the election, however, his image began to unravel as numerous news outlets reported that large parts of Santos' self-published biography appeared to be fabricated, including claims about his ancestry, education, employment, charity work, property ownership, financial status and crimes he claimed were perpetrated against him.

It was subsequently revealed that a vulnerability study commissioned by Santos' own campaign in late 2021 confirmed the deceptions later reported in the press, as well as evidence of a criminal record and past aliases. Its findings, which were known to local Republicans, were ignored when brought to the attention of national leadership, including then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Once in Congress, the allegations began to mount, and in May the House Ethics Committee voted unanimously to establish an investigated subcommittee after federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York indicted Santos on 13 counts of fraud, money laundering and other crimes. A superseding indictment in October added 10 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and credit card fraud -- just days after his former campaign treasurer pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud.

“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations. Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself." - US Attorney Breon Peace

A November 1 expulsion vote failed 179-213. Some lawmakers contended that voting to expel Santos, who has not yet been convicted of a crime in a court of law, would set a dangerous precedent.

However, the Ethics Committee's scathing report, released November 16, left no doubt about the breadth and severity of Santos' crimes. It concluded "that there was substantial evidence that Representative George Santos: knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports with the Federal Election Commission; used campaign funds for personal purposes; engaged in fraudulent conduct in connection... and engaged in knowing and willful violations of the Ethics in Government Act."

The Committee, which referred their findings to the Department of Justice, stated the New York Republican “cannot be trusted,” adding “At nearly every opportunity, he placed his desire for private gain above his duty to uphold the Constitution, federal law, and ethical principles.”

Santos announced that afternoon that he would not be running for reelection.

Although House Speaker Mike Johnson (LA), along with the full Republican leadership, voted against the motion to expel, he did not whip today's vote, only instructing the GOP caucus to "vote with your conscience."

Santos, who has a criminal trial in September, is also facing potential criminal prosecution by the Nassau County District Attorney, the New York State Attorney General, and the Queens District Attorney.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) has ten days to announce a special election to replace Santos, with an election occurring “not less than seventy nor more than eighty days” following the proclamation.

The Third District, which voted for Joe Biden by 8 points in 2020, presents Democrats with a strong opportunity flip the seat, notching one step closer to overtaking the GOP's narrow 222-213 majority.

"[Santos'] offenses, his fraud, his lies pale in comparison to the lies and fraud of Donald Trump...which led to an incitement of a violent insurrection against the union. And so all of those Republicans who voted to expel Santos should drop their support for Trump immediately -- who certainly engaged in far bigger lies [than] anything George Santos ever attempted." - Congressman Jaime Raskin (D-MD)

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: The Hill, CNN, US House, NPR, ABC, New York Times

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