The House Ethics Committee in a report released Thursday said there is clear evidence that Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) committed serious crimes, though it stopped short of recommending formal sanctions, as some had hoped it would do.
The panel referred its findings of “potential violations of federal criminal law” to the Department of Justice, and its report will raise questions about whether the House will expel Santos, who has been a subject of controversy since before he formally became a member of Congress — and has publicly admitted to fabricating aspects of his backstory and resume.
“[T]he evidence uncovered by the Investigative Subcommittee (ISC) revealed that Representative George Santos cannot be trusted,” the report reads. “At nearly every opportunity, he placed his desire for private gain above his duty to uphold the Constitution, federal law, and ethical principles.”
The report found that Santos “blatantly stole from his campaign” and “deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit.”
Transgressions detailed by the committee include Santos potentially inappropriately using thousands of dollars of funds from his campaign on a trip to Atlantic City, a trip to Las Vegas, and on botox and other cosmetic procedures. The committee said it was unable to verify whether those expenditures had a campaign purpose, but they appeared not to.
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It also detailed transactions made by Santos after he personally received tens of thousands of dollars from an outside strategy firm created to support his campaign, including a $4,127.80 purchase at luxury brand Hermes; payments for his own personal credit cards and debt; and small purchases from Only Fans, the subscription platform mostly used for adult content.
The report did, however, dismiss one major allegation against Santos, from a prospective staffer who had accused him of sexual harrasment. The committee said it could not substantiate the claim, and questioned the credibility of the prospective staffer — who had an employment offer rescinded due to concerns about pending felony wiretapping charges.
Following release of the report, Santos said he would no longer seek reelection but that he will continue to serve “up until I am allowed” — while tearing into the committee.
“It is a disgusting politicized smear that shows the depths of how low our federal government has sunk. Everyone who participated in this grave miscarriage of Justice should all be ashamed of themselves,” Santos said in a post on X.
The announcement marked a reversal from his comments earlier this month, when the Congressman told CNN in an interview that he would run for his seat in 2024 even if the House voted to expel him.
While the committee did not make a formal recommendation on expelling Santos, as Chair Michael Guest (R-Miss.) previously told reporters would be the case, the top lawmakers on the panel said “Santos’ conduct warrants public condemnation, is beneath the dignity of the office, and has brought severe discredit to the House.”
The final product is sure to exacerbate the controversy surrounding Santos, who is facing 23 federal criminal counts and has already endured two expulsion efforts — with a third likely on the horizon.
Guest plans to file an expulsion resolution against Santos Friday morning, a source familiar confirmed to The Hill. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) said in a statement following the report’s release that he plans to submit a privileged resolution to expel Santos when the House returns Nov. 28 after the Thanksgiving holiday, which will force another vote on the matter. Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) said the same.
The release of the report has already swayed at least one lawmaker who was opposed to expulsion earlier this month: Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said he will now support booting Santos from office.
“The report’s findings are extremely damning and I would vote to expel,” Raskin told The Hill in a text message.
Raj Shah, the deputy chief for communications for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), said the top lawmaker “has reviewed the report and its very troubling findings.”
“As members from both parties, members of the Ethics Committee, and Representative Santos return to Congress after the Thanksgiving break, Speaker Johnson encourages all involved to consider the best interests of the institution as this matter is addressed further,” Shah added.
The Ethics report could also add to the legal peril Santos is facing. Federal prosecutors have charged the New York Republican with 23 criminal counts on allegations that he misled donors, fraudulently received unemployment benefits, lied on House financial disclosures, inflated his campaign finance reports and charged his donors’ credit cards without authorization.
He has pleaded not guilty to all counts, and his trial is set for September 2024.
In a statement accompanying the report, the chairman and ranking member of the panel said there is “substantial evidence” to show that 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 with RedStone Strategies LLC; and engaged in knowing and willful violations of the Ethics in Government Act as it relates to his Financial Disclosure (FD) Statements filed with the House.”
The panel also found that Santos “reported fictitious loans to 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.”
“He used his connections to high value donors and other political campaigns to obtain additional funds for himself through fraudulent or otherwise questionable business dealings,” adding that he “sustained all of this through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience.”
The scathing report also tore into Santos for his “obfuscation and delay,” saying that his “lack of candor during the investigation itself” was “particularly troubling.”
Despite Santos repeatedly saying in public that he would like to prove his innocence and would fully cooperate with the committee, the panel said he declined to submit a signed statement responding to the allegations in the report, declined to voluntarily provide documents and information to the investigators, and declined to provide a statement under oath.
Nonetheless, the committee said it “compiled a voluminous record consisting of over 170,000 pages of documents and testimony from dozens of witnesses, including financial statements, contemporaneous communications, and other materials.”
Though the committee had considered issuing a subpoena to Santos, it decided not to in order to avoid further delaying the investigation, believing that Santos would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and that his testimony would have “low evidentiary value given his admitted practice of embellishment.”
The Hill reached out to Santos for comment.
Several New York Republicans have led the months-long effort to expel Santos, which has so far proven unsuccessful amid the ongoing Ethics and Justice Department investigations. Without a formal conviction, even some Democrats have defended Santos’s right to remain in Congress, as other indicted lawmakers have done in years past.
Former Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), for instance, was indicted for insider trading in 2018 but remained in Congress for more than a year afterwards, winning reelection over that span. He resigned from Congress the same day he pleaded guilty to the charges, making expulsion unnecessary.
More recently, in 2020, former Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) also stepped down from Congress voluntarily, a month after pleading guilty to campaign finance fraud. Both he and Collins were sentenced to prison terms, though both were pardoned by former President Trump.
After the first two efforts to expel Santos failed, Santos’s top critics are hoping the release of the Ethics report will help convince enough holdouts that he should be removed from office.
“Many of my colleagues want to hang their hat on a report like that before they vote yes,” Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) said Wednesday as the House was leaving Washington for the long holiday recess.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who voted to expel Santos earlier this month, suggested this week that a formal sanctions recommendation from Ethics isn’t necessary to remove him, as long as the committee’s report “clearly justifies expulsion.”
Updated at 5:28 p.m. ET