Watch CBS News

Rep. George Santos remains defiant as House to vote on expulsion this week

Santos refuses to resign ahead of expulsion vote
Santos refuses to resign ahead of expulsion vote 02:15

Washington — Embattled Republican Rep. George Santos remained defiant Thursday as the House prepares to take up a third resolution to expel him from Congress, two weeks after the House Ethics Committee said it found "overwhelming evidence" that he violated federal law.

In a news conference outside the Capitol, Santos repeated criticisms of his colleagues in Congress and said he has watched them "waste the American people's time over and over again." The congressman from New York warned that expelling him "is going to be the undoing" of many House members.

"This will haunt them in the future where mere allegations are sufficient to have members removed from Congress when duly elected by their people in their respective states and districts," he said.

Santos accused his fellow House members of seeking to link him with a group of just five other former lawmakers who were expelled from the lower chamber — three of whom took up arms for the Confederacy during the Civil War and two who were convicted of federal crimes.

"This is bullying," he said of one of the measures introduced by the head of the House Ethics Committee seeking to expel him. "It's all theater. It's theater for the cameras. It's theater for the microphones and theater for the American people."

George Santos Holds Press Conference On Capitol Hill Steps
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 30: Rep. George Santos (R-NY) talks to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol on November 30, 2023 in Washington, DC.  / Getty Images

Santos rebuked the current state of the House, saying it "represents chaos," and renewed allegations against others in the chamber, who he said have engaged in their own wrongdoing.

In what may be one of his final legislative acts, Santos said he will introduce later Thursday a privileged resolution to expel Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a New York Democrat, who pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor charge for falsely pulling a fire alarm in an office building in the Capitol complex.

Bowman said in response to the expected expulsion resolution targeting him that Santos should not be taken seriously and called the Republican lawmaker's threatened measure "another meaningless stunt in his long history of cons, antics and outright fraud."

The Republican lawmaker indicated that he will not bow to pressure to step down from Congress amid the allegations he stole from donors, used campaign contributions for personal expenses and fraudulently collected unemployment benefits, among other accusations by the Justice Department.

Santos has continued to push back against the claims lodged against him amid his ongoing legal and professional troubles, even as the ranks of his Republican colleagues supporting his ouster have grown. Still, the freshman congressman said last week that he expects to be expelled from the House, though he chastised his fellow House members for smearing him.

A vote on expelling Santos is set for Friday, and the effort poses the biggest threat yet to his congressional career. While debating the resolution on Thursday, lawmakers, including fellow Republicans, reiterated their calls for Santos to be removed from the House.

"George Santos has built his persona, his personal and political life, on a foundation of lies," said Ethics Committee chairman Michael Guest, a Republican from Mississippi.

Santos, though, continued to defend himself as unfairly targeted.

"I will not stand by quietly," he said in remarks on the floor. "The people of the 3rd District of New York sent me here. If they want me out, they're going to have to go silence those people and take the hard vote."

The Santos expulsion resolutions

Two lawmakers moved Tuesday to force action on separate resolutions seeking to remove Santos from Congress, setting up votes in the House before the week's end.

Rep. George Santos walks back to his office after debate on the House floor on a resolution to expel him from Congress, at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 1, 2023.
Rep. George Santos walks back to his office after debate on the House floor on a resolution to expel him from Congress, at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 1, 2023. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

One of the measures, from Guest, was introduced shortly after the panel's findings were published. Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, Santos' GOP colleague in the New York congressional delegation, moved to fast-track it under House rules. The other, a privileged resolution from Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California, was introduced Tuesday.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said Wednesday that he has "real reservations" about expelling Santos, but GOP leaders are not urging their members to vote a certain way.

"We're going to allow people to vote their conscience," Johnson said during the Republican leadership's weekly news conference. "I think it's the only appropriate thing we can do. We've not whipped the vote, and we wouldn't. I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith." 

Santos is not running for a second term in the House. After the Ethics Committee released its report, he announced that he would not seek to hold on to his seat, though he had signaled in March that he would mount a reelection bid.

Calls for Santos to resign have followed him throughout his more than 11 months in the House, starting after he admitted to embellishing parts of his resume and background in his 2022 bid for Congress. Pressure for him to step down grew after he was indicted by the Justice Department on nearly two dozen federal charges, and reached a fever pitch after the Ethics panel released its report.

Santos has pleaded not guilty to all the federal charges and has accused those seeking to expel him of acting as "judge, jury and executioner." 

"Evidence isn't really conviction or a verdict, and allegations neither," he said during his news conference.

The Ethics Committee's report

The Ethics Committee announced in March that it had opened a formal investigation into Santos to examine a host of alleged wrongdoing, including whether he engaged in unlawful activity regarding his 2022 congressional campaign, failed to disclose required information on House reports, violated federal conflict of interest laws and engaged in sexual misconduct toward a prospective congressional aide.

During the course of its seven-month probe, the committee amassed "substantial evidence" that Santos broke the law and accused him of engaging in a "complex web" of illegal activity involving his campaign, personal and business finances, according to its report. Congressional investigators found that Santos misused campaign contributions to cover his personal expenses, including at luxury retailers, resorts and for cosmetic treatments; reported fictitious loans to his political committees; and filed false reports to the Federal Election Commission.

They also said that while Santos pledged to cooperate with the committee's probe, he engaged in "obfuscation and delay" with the panel. Though the congressman has blamed his former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, for campaign finance violations, House investigators said Santos was "a knowing and active participant in the misconduct."

The GOP congressman slammed the committee's report as politically motivated, claimed it poisoned the jury pool in his federal case and set a "dangerous" precedent. 

"Because this precedent sets a new era of due process, which means you are guilty until proven innocent, we will take your accusations and use it to smear, to mangle, to destroy you and remove you from society. That is what they are doing with this," he said last week.

Santos survived two earlier efforts to expel him from Congress, when lawmakers voted not to punish him because of his ongoing criminal case and the Ethics Committee probe. But many of his colleagues reversed their positions after congressional investigators completed their review.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.