POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Santos refuses to resign a day ahead of expected expulsion vote

Nov 30, 2023, 7:07 AM | Updated: May 28, 2024, 12:05 pm

Republican Rep. George Santos of New York rides an elevator at the US Capitol on November 1, in Was...

Republican Rep. George Santos of New York rides an elevator at the US Capitol on November 1, in Washington, DC. Mandatory Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

(CNN) — Embattled GOP Rep. George Santos remained defiant Thursday morning in the face of a renewed effort to expel him from Congress after a damning House Ethics Committee investigation into the New York congressman.

The congressman spoke to reporters on the steps of Capitol Hill where he continued to refuse to resign, one day ahead of an expected expulsion vote Friday. Santos described the effort to expel him as “bullying” and lamented what he described as “chaos” in Congress.

Santos also disputed the allegation in the report, which stated Santos did not work with the Ethics Committee, saying, “I cooperated.”

“I provided them, every single document for the most part that they went off came from my counsel,” he said. He later said, “I am not unpacking the report. It is counterproductive for me to do so at this time. There will be a time that I will unpack it entirely and go line by line.”

Santos also said that he will introduce a resolution today to expel Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York for pulling a fire alarm when there was not an emergency. Bowman has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for falsely triggering a fire alarm in a House office building.

Santos has survived previous attempts to remove him from the House, but momentum is building for the latest effort after the release of a scathing report from the House Ethics Committee earlier this month, which concluded that he “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.”

Santos announced that he would not seek reelection following the release of the ethics report, but he denounced the congressional investigation as “a disgusting politicized smear.”

In remarks on the House floor Tuesday evening, Santos argued that the expected vote to expel “sets a very dangerous precedent for the future.”

“Are we to now assume that one is now no longer innocent until proven guilty and that they are in fact guilty until proven innocent?” he asked.

Expulsion is the most severe form of punishment for a lawmaker in the House and only five members have ever been expelled from the chamber. It requires a two-thirds majority vote to succeed – a high bar to clear.

Apart from the Ethics Committee investigation, Santos has also pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges, including allegations of fraud related to Covid-19 unemployment benefits, misusing campaign funds and lying about his personal finances on House disclosure reports.

As Republicans weigh how to vote, many have expressed due process concerns over expulsion since Santos has yet to be convicted in a court of law. Others, however, have argued it is imperative to expel the congressman given the seriousness of the findings of the ethics investigation.

It’s not yet clear if there will be enough votes to expel Santos.

House Speaker Mike Johnson has said that he has “real reservations” about the move to expel the congressman, citing the precedent it could set.

Johnson’s comment that he has “reservations” won’t provide political cover for members to vote in favor of expulsion, which could make it harder for some Republicans to support such a move.

“We’ve not whipped the vote, and we wouldn’t,” Johnson said Wednesday morning. “I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this, I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

Related: GOP on GOP: Romney scolds Santos, ‘You don’t belong here’

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Santos refuses to resign a day ahead of expected expulsion vote