DemDaily: Liars and Deniers

March 3, 2023

The US House of Representatives has opened a formal investigation into embattled freshman Congressman George Santos (R-NY), who has been under fire for blatant fabrications to his resume, as well as questionable campaign and personal finances.

In a statement Thursday, the House Ethics Committee announced its unanimous decision to establish an investigative subcommittee to look into whether Santos “engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office.”

Santos was elected to New York's North Long Island-based Third Congressional District in November, defeating Democrat Rob Zimmerman (D) 53.8% to 46.2%, after having unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Thomas Suozzi (D) in 2020, 43.5% to 56%.

Santos, a Trump supporter and election denier, spoke at a "Stop the Steal" rally the day before the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, claiming that he, too, had an office stolen from him by voter fraud.

New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R), an early supporter, endorsed Santos' candidacy and helped him raise funds for his second run for Congress.

Six weeks after his 2022 victory, 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, however, were ignored when brought to the attention of national Republican leadership, including then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Despite calls for his resignation from colleagues on both sides of the aisle, Santos has remained defiant, benefitting from the support of McCarthy, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, and Stefanik, now House Republican Conference Chair, who rely in part on Santos's vote to support their narrow new Republican majority in the House.

Santos was assigned to the Small Business, and Science, Space and Technology Committees, but on January 31, he announced that he would recuse himself from committees “temporarily” until “things get settled.”

It was only after a sexual harassment claim by a prospective congressional employee was added to the list of Santos' purported criminal and ethical violations that the House finally acted.

The Ethics Committee probe is just one of several investigations into Santos, who is facing potential criminal prosecution by the Nassau County District Attorney, the New York State Attorney General, the Queens District Attorney, and reportedly the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York.

On February 9, Congressman Robert Garcia (D-CA) introduced a motion to expel Santos, citing the ethical violation clause of the US Constitution. Fellow New York Republican Congressmen Marc Molinaro, Anthony D'Esposito, Nick LaLota, and Mike Lawler have voiced support for Santos' removal.

D'Esposito has also put forward a bill aimed at preventing Congress members convicted of financial or campaign fraud from profiting in the form of book deals and media appearances.

A member of Congress may be removed upon a two-thirds vote by their colleagues. Since the Civil War era, only two members have been formally expelled: Michael Myers (D-PA), in 1980 after being convicted of 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, most recently Bob Ney (R-OH), who resigned in 2006 after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges related to the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal.

Santos is not the only new member of Congress under scrutiny for misrepresentation of their professional and personal history.

Tennessee's Fifth District Congressman Andy Ogles (R) is also the subject of scrutiny for embellishing his resume, including the nature of his college degree, and falsely claiming that he was an economist and a former member of law enforcement.

Freshman Florida Congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna (13th CD), has faced criticism for falsely claiming to be of Jewish heritage when, in fact, relatives confirmed that her paternal grandfather fought in the armed forces of Nazi Germany. Claims that she grew up poor and that her father was incarcerated, as well as that she had been the victim of a traumatic home invasion, have also been disproven. Described by friends as a one-time "liberal" Obama supporter, she switched parties to run for office and for the first time claimed her mother's maiden name of Luna and her Hispanic heritage.

They are two of 165 members of Congress -- nine senators and 156 representatives -- who have denied the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and the legitimacy of President Joe Biden's victory.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: The Hill, Washington Post, Newsweek, BBC, NPR, CBS, Bloomberg, Axios, Politico

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