Santos makes closing arguments to the press
The embattled New York congressman faces an expulsion vote Friday
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., addressed a group of reporters Thursday just outside the U.S. Capitol before daylight crested the tops of surrounding buildings. He acknowledged what everyone else there already seemed to know: By the time the sun set, he would have served his last full day in Congress.
Fellow Republicans had told him that the House had the votes needed to expel him. With the motion scheduled for Friday, his removal seemed inevitable.
“If I am to get expelled tomorrow,” Santos said, “I will be number six in history—the first Republican and the only one without a conviction or without having committed treason.”
For half an hour, he railed against what he perceived as bullying from his congressional colleagues.
Amid numerous reports of scandals and misconduct, Santos has claimed innocence and argued that expelling him from Congress would depart from precedent and ultimately be a disservice to the House of Representatives. He also has pointed a finger at other colleagues who, he argues, are just as deserving of removal.
Santos’ main defense is that no member of Congress has ever been expelled without a conviction in a court of law. Strictly by the books, he’s not wrong. According to the House of Representatives archives, the chamber removed three members for joining the Confederacy in 1861. Two others were removed after being convicted of bribery.
Santos faces 23 criminal counts for campaign finance fraud, misleading donors, and lying to a government agency in a New York District Court, but his trial isn’t set to begin until September 2024. A report by the House Ethics Committee said there was evidence Santos reported false donations and used his campaign funds to purchase luxury personal goods and even online pornography. Although it has no binding power on its own, its findings laid out in graphic detail the magnitude of Santos’ personal and criminal misconduct.
In protest, Santos has filed a motion to remove Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., who purposely pulled a fire alarm last month as the House considered a short-term spending bill. Bowman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for obstructing an official proceeding and cut a deal to pay a $1,000 fine. Santos argues that if he’s in the line of fire, Bowman should be too.
Santos’ deflections haven’t gained much traction, but his procedural argument has drawn one key supporter: House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.
“I’ll say this,” Johnson said on Tuesday, “We had a Republican conference meeting. … I personally have real reservations about doing this. I am concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”
Johnson went on to say that he has encouraged Republicans to vote their conscience. Because the vote was introduced as a “privileged motion,” Johnson can’t procedurally stop it from happening. As many as 90 Republicans say they would join with all 213 Democrats to vote Santos out.
Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick has represented a district on Long Island in the New York state legislature since 2002. The Republican has seen a lot of congressmen come and go. In his opinion, New York Republicans only stand to gain from removing him and moving on.
“He’s a liar. So, the committee comes out with its report,” Fitzpatrick said, referencing the House Ethics Committee earlier this month. “And we have a real creep on our hands.”
Fitzpatrick said he thinks the GOP did not do its due diligence on Santos as a candidate. They hadn’t expected him to flip New York’s 3rd Congressional District—a seat that had been under Democratic control for 10 years. Democrats, too, were caught off guard.
“Nobody paid him much attention until all of a sudden, you know, the guy wins and now, look, this guy is really a bad apple here.” Fitzpatrick said. “Being in the business as an elected [official] you understand why it happened: the Dems got complacent; the other Republicans were happy to have him.”
Fitzpatrick noted that New York Republicans have firmly said they wouldn’t renominate Santos in 2024. He anticipates that Democrats will use Santos’ conduct as a way to attack future Republican candidates, but there’s not much the Republicans can do about it now—besides expel him.
“We’re now back to square one with an open seat on our hands,” Fitzpatrick said.