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March 2, 2023 3:30 pm

House Ethics Committee Opens Formal Investigation Into George Santos


avatar by Andrew Bernard

US Representative George Santos (R-NY) walks to a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

The House Ethics Committee on Thursday announced that it had formally opened an investigation into Rep. George Santos (R-NY-03) for potentially unlawful activity. Santos is alleged to have lied extensively about his personal and professional background during his 2022 congressional campaign, including his claim to have Jewish heritage.

In a joint statement between Committee Chairman Rep. Michael Guest (R-MS) and Ranking Member Susan Wild (D-PA), the committee said that it was looking into a wide array of alleged conduct by Rep. Santos.

“The Investigative Subcommittee shall have jurisdiction to determine whether Representative George Santos may have: engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office,” the statement said.

In response, Rep. Santos issued a statement that he was cooperating fully with the investigation, and would not otherwise be commenting.

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Among other now apparently false claims, Santos had asserted for years that his maternal grandparents were Jews who fled persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and survived the Holocaust by fleeing to Brazil during World War II. Those claims all appear to be false, with records indicating that Santos’ grandparents were born in Brazil. Santos has also made false claims about his mother being a 9/11 survivor, and about his work and educational experience. Santos has acknowledged “embellishing” his background, and said that he only described himself as “Jew-ish,” not Jewish, despite having counted himself among incoming Jewish Republicans at a Republican Jewish Coalition event in December.

Santos, who is gay, is also accused by a male former aide of sexual harassment. In a copy of the complaint to the Ethics Committee that the aide posted to social media, the former aide accuses Rep. Santos of having groped him in his Congressional office. The former aide also says that he filed a police report.

Santos has faced growing calls from within the Republican caucus for his resignation. Congressman Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY-4), whose district neighbors Santos’, became the first to do so on 11 Jan. but is now joined by the entire slate of New York Republican freshmen, excluding Santos himself, and a growing number of others outside the state.

Santos remained defiant as recently as Wednesday. In a now deleted tweet in response to a post by D’Esposito introducing legislation that would limit Santos’ ability to profit from a future memoir if he had committed fraud, Santos wrote that D’Esposito was a “bad cop who give [sic] cops a bad name” and that he had “assaulted” a 72 year old woman. D’Esposito served on the NYPD as a detective for a decade.

Rep. Brandon Williams (R-NY-22) came to D’Esposito’s defense and called for Santos’ resignation.

“[Rep. D’Esposito] risked everything to serve the people of New York with honor and courage,” Williams wrote. “He has more integrity in his pinky than George Santo has in his entire body. George disgraces the halls of Congress and is stain on the soul of our nation.”

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