George Santos announces that he will not seek re-election following a damning report by the ethics committee

Republican Rep. George Santos announced he will not seek re-election to the House next year, following the Ethics Committee’s release of a long-awaited report Thursday that concluded there is “substantial evidence” that the New York congressman used campaign funds to personal purposes. purpose.

The committee said it uncovered additional “uncharged and illegal conduct” by Santos that goes beyond the criminal charges already pending against him and will immediately refer the charges to the Justice Department for further investigation.

Santos engaged in “knowing and willful violations” of financial disclosure statements filed with the House, according to the panel, and “knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports with the Federal Election Commission.”

The committee concluded that Santos “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his candidacy for the House of Representatives for his own personal financial gain.”

After the publication of the report, Santos announced that he will not seek re-election, although he remained defiant and condemned the investigation, calling it a “premeditated report.”

“It’s a disgusting politicized smear that shows the depth of how low our federal government has sunk. Everyone who participated in this serious miscarriage of justice should all be ashamed,” Santos wrote on X. He went on to say, “I will however, DO NOT seek re-election for another term in 2024, as my family deserves better than to be under the gun from the press all the time.”

The New York Republican later said he will hold a news conference outside the Capitol on Nov. 30 — the week Congress returns from the Thanksgiving break and likely after the House votes on whether to expel him. Expulsion is extremely rare and requires the high bar of a two-thirds majority in Parliament to succeed. While a resolution to expel Santos failed earlier this month despite garnering some Republican votes, supporters have said they believe the report will be enough to convince more members to back the effort.

“Running for office was never a dream or a goal, but when the opportunity to do so came, I felt the time was right to serve my country now,” Santos said on the Post X Thursday night. “Looking back today, I know one thing, politics is really dirty, dirty from the ground up.”

The panel said the congressman’s conduct deserves “public condemnation, is beneath the dignity of office and has brought the House into serious disrepute.”

The panel also said Santos “did not cooperate fully” with the investigation.

Santos declined a voluntary interview and also did not submit a written response to the ethics panel’s allegations.

But the committee decided not to issue a subpoena to Santos because of his likelihood of invoking his Fifth Amendment rights and that his testimony “would have low probative value given his admitted practice of embellishment.”

The report is the latest blow to the New York Republican, who has separately pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges, including allegations of fraud related to Covid-19 unemployment benefits, misuse of campaign funds and lying about his personal finances in House disclosure reports.

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A spokesman for Speaker Mike Johnson said in a statement that the report had “very troubling findings.” The statement did not call for Santos to resign, but said Johnson is urging lawmakers, including Santos, “to consider the best interests of the institution as this matter is further addressed.”

“The speaker has reviewed the report and its very troubling findings,” Raj Shah, deputy director of communications for the speaker, said in a statement. As members from both parties, members of the Ethics Committee and Representative Santos return to Congress after the Thanksgiving break, Speaker Johnson urges all involved to consider the best interests of the institution as this matter is further addressed.”

House Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest, a Republican from Mississippi, will make a motion to expel Santos as soon as Friday during the pro forma session, a source familiar with the matter told CNN, which will prompt action on the issue when Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess. . The rationale here is that having Guest make the motion will be seen as less political and give other members more cover to support it, according to sources involved in the planning.

Although the committee did not include a disciplinary recommendation in its report because it would have taken more time, the fact that the chairman is making the proposal will send a strong signal to the rest of the Republican conference — and is a sign that this expulsion effort could succeed This time.

Two other members of the ethics committee also supported the expulsion of Santos on Thursday morning.

Rep. Susan Wild, the top Democrat on the panel, has voted in favor of previous deportation efforts, but says she is no longer committed to remaining neutral now that their investigative work is complete.

And rep. Andrew Garbarino, a New York Republican and committee member who has also held off on deportation until this point, also says he will now support it.

“There is substantial evidence that he took advantage of his position for personal gain. He does not deserve public office,” Garbarino said in a statement.

In early November, a Republican-led effort to expel Santos failed in the House. A number of lawmakers had expressed concern over the prospect of expelling a member who faces an ongoing legal battle and absent a criminal conviction. Before the vote, Santos defended his right to the “presumption of innocence.”

In May, the House voted to refer a Democrat-led decision to deport Santos to the Ethics Committee, a move that allowed Republicans to avoid directly weighing in on the contentious issue of deportation.

Santos has long faced calls to resign from both Republicans and Democrats because of his legal issues, as well as an extensive and well-documented track record of fabrications and lies about his resume and biography. Those calls are likely to get louder in the wake of the report.

In an interview with CNN’s Manu Raju earlier this month, Santos acknowledged mistakes in his handling of key issues outlined in the criminal charges against him, although he vigorously defended himself. He blamed “stupidity” and “insecurity” for his far-reaching representations, but he also played down the significance of these fabrications, arguing that his constituents did not vote for him based on his biography.

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The report shows evidence of campaign funds being used for personal travel and cosmetics

The ethics committee presented extensive evidence showing that Santos used campaign funds for lavish personal use, racking up significant travel expenses for flights, hotels, Ubers and meals that appear to have no political or campaign purpose.

In December 2021, taxi and hotel charges from Las Vegas were on the campaign credit card, even though this was a time when Santos had told his campaign staff he was on his honeymoon and there were no campaign events on his calendar.

An FEC report listed an Airbnb expense on July 7, 2022 of $3,332.81 as a “hotel stay” when the campaign calendar revealed Santos was “free at [the] Hampton’s for the weekend.”

There were also spa and cosmetic services that didn’t seem to have a promotional purpose, such as $1,400 at the Virtual Skin Spa in Jericho, New York, in July 2022.

There was a $1,500 purchase on the campaign payment card at Mirza Aesthetics that was not reported to the FEC and was noted as “Botox” on expense spreadsheets. The $1,400 charge at Virtual Skin Spa was a debit card purchase from the campaign, also described as “Botox” in the spreadsheets.

The ethics panel said there was no substantial evidence to support a sexual abuse allegation against Santos.

The allegation that Santos may have committed sexual misconduct was made by an individual who applied for work in his congressional office, referred to in the report as Witness 10. The investigative panel “was unable to substantiate this allegation,” according to the report.

Witness 10 was asked to come to Santos’ congressional office on January 25, 2023 to meet the team. Witness 10 returned to the office on several occasions, but was then asked to wait until Human Resources approved his hire and he could be properly onboarded. On February 1, the offer was rescinded “due to the office’s concerns about the then-pending wiretapping charge against him.”

Two days later, the individual filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee, alleging that Santos had “engaged in sexual misconduct against him while they were alone in the congressman’s office on January 25, 2023, and was “reviewing constituent email correspondence.””

Investigators say in the report that they were unable to substantiate that claim.

The report also stated that testimony from other witnesses the panel interviewed contradicted the person’s claims about going through mail and being alone with Santos.

Beyond that, the committee raised concerns about the individual’s credibility, saying there were inconsistencies in Witness 10’s testimony and that the individual admitted to contacting the FBI with the claim of being paid for information about Santos.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Fredreka Schouten, Lauren Fox and Haley Talbot contributed to this report.

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