Santos, a New York Republican, has pleaded not guilty to identity theft, wire fraud and lying to federal election officials
WASHINGTON (WABC) -- Representative George Santos says he will not seek re-election following a bombshell House Ethics Committee report on his behavior.
The report, released on Thursday, came after a months-long investigation into the New York Republican's actions that have led to nearly two dozen pending felony charges and repeated efforts to expel him from the House of Representatives.
The 56-page report breaks down not only the 23 felony charges already against Santos, which include identity theft and credit card fraud, but the investigative subcommittee also found "substantial evidence" of additional uncharged unlawful and unethical conduct by Santos and has referred its findings to the Justice Department.
Investigators said in the report "Representative Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of the House candidacy for his own personal financial profit. He blatantly stole from his campaign."
House members included in their report a spreadsheet produced by Santos' former campaign treasurer from his campaign debit card, which showed charges to an aesthetic company for Botox, Brooks Brothers and multiple payments to Airbnb.
The committee said that Santos' conduct warrants public condemnation, is beneath the dignity of the office, and has brought severe discredit upon the House.
Santos released a statement on X (formerly Twitter) indicating he would not resign but also saying he will not seek reelection for a second term in 2024 "as my family deserves better than to be under the gun from the press all the time."
Late Thursday, Santos released another statement on X, saying that 2023 has been "my year from hell." He called politics "dirty" but said he would "continue to fight for what I believe in and I will never back down." In the statement, he also announced a press conference for November 30 at 8 a.m. on the Capitol steps.
The panel said Santos knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports with the Federal Election Commission; used campaign funds for personal purposes; and engaged in violations of the Ethics in Government Act as it relates to financial disclosure statements filed with the House.
"He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit," the report states, repeating charges outlined against him by the Department of Justice in its indictment. "He reported fictitious loans to his 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.
"And he sustained all of this through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience."
The report doesn't recommend expelling Santos from office, but on Thursday House Ethics Committee Chair Michael Guest said he's now ready to bring a resolution to make it happen.
Rep. Michael Guest, who oversees the investigation, is expected to file that resolution Friday morning to kick off a third attempt to expel Santos from office - a move his New York colleagues aim to renew following the Thanksgiving break.
Governor Kathy Hochul said she would like to see Santos out now.
"As the governor of a state who actually needs members of Congress who are focused on doing their jobs and delivering for New York, I'm calling on him to resign," said Hochul.
The panel has contacted at least 40 witnesses, reviewed 170,000 pages of documents and authorized more than three dozen subpoenas as part of its investigation into whether Santos "engaged in unlawful activity" in his 2022 House campaign.
Several New York Republican members who have led the charge to remove Santos from Congress said they plan to push for his expulsion once against when the House returns from Thanksgiving recess.
"The substance in the report will drive other members to get to yes," Rep. Nick LaLota, R-NY, told Rachel Scott. "My district is right next to Santos' district. My voters and I are quite aware of the fraud that he perpetuated. I don't need an ethics report to tell me what I already know."
"The report is going to affirm and confirm what we already know: George Santos is a fraud; he should not be a member of Congress," Rep. Marc Molinaro, R-NY, said. "Members are going to have to reflect on what that report says, and those who may not have shared that opinion, that same opinion, are going to have to come to their own conclusion."
Santos has pleaded not guilty to a 23-count indictment that alleges he stole the identities of campaign donors and then used their credit cards to make tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. Federal prosecutors say Santos wired some of the money to his personal bank account and used the rest to pad his campaign coffers.
Santos, who represents parts of Queens and Long Island, is also accused of falsely reporting to the Federal Elections Commission that he had loaned his campaign $500,000 when he actually hadn't given anything and had less than $8,000 in the bank. The fake loan was an attempt to convince Republican Party officials that he was a serious candidate, worth their financial support, the indictment says.
Santos survived a Nov. 1 vote to expel him from the House, when the chamber failed to reach the 2/3 majority needed to remove a member from Congress.
On Tuesday, a former fundraiser for Santos pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge, admitting he impersonated a high-ranking congressional aide while raising campaign cash for the embattled New York Republican.
If Santos decides to resign, Gov. Hochul must call a special election within 10 days. The special election would then be held between 70 days and 80 days after her announcement.
She cannot appoint a successor, as the law specifies that there has to be a special election for a congressional seat, according to Hochul's office.
There would not be a primary. Instead, Democratic and Republican party leaders would choose their candidates for the special election.
Former Rep Tom Suozzi would likely be the Democrats' choice, as several other leading contenders have stepped out of the way since he announced his intention to reclaim his seat last month.
A large number Republicans have indicated they would be be running in any primary, with the decision on who to run in the special election almost certainly falling to the Nassau County Republican Committee.
Some information from ABC News and the Associated Press