George Santos defends himself ahead of NY Republican expulsion vote

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WASHINGTON — Ahead of George Santos’ ouster from Congress, the New York Republican defended himself against his critics in a testy intraparty debate on the House floor among GOP lawmakers.

“It was a premeditated requirement that certain members of this organization engage in this smear campaign to destroy me,” Santos said Thursday. “I will not be silent.”

Santos has been embroiled in controversy since entering the House earlier this year. But efforts to remove the GOP lawmaker from the lower chamber gained momentum after the House Ethics Committee issued a scathing report accusing Santos of misusing his campaign for personal gain and violating federal law.

“The committee’s findings are shocking,” Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., who introduced the resolution to oust Santos, said at the House Ford. He is also the Chairman of the Guest House Ethics Committee. “(The report) paints a picture of fraud committed by Santos.”

A 56-page report by the House Ethics Committee found that Santos misused campaign funds for his own financial gain, in one case using $50,000 to buy food and parking at the luxury clothing store, Only Fans, Sephora and others.

“Mr. Santos was not a victim. He committed a massive fraud on his constituents and the American people,” Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., ranking member of the Ethics Committee, said Thursday.

Before the report was published, Santos was already being pushed by his colleagues to resign. Before taking office, Santos was told on the campaign trail that voters had misrepresented his background and fabricated it. He later admitted that he had embellished his application but remained in office regardless.

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Santos came under additional fire in May when he was indicted on federal charges of wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and lying to Congress. He was hit with another charge of credit card fraud and identity theft in October.

In the face of his controversies, Santos has vowed to stay in office, despite two attempts by his opponents to oust him. Those efforts failed as lawmakers waited for the House Ethics Committee to complete its investigation.

“Jorge Santos … is a liar who used a position of public trust for personal gain,” Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, RN.Y., said Thursday on the House floor ahead of the expulsion vote. D’Esposito led a second attempt to oust Santos because of his federal charges and was one of his most outspoken critics.

Santos and opponents of his removal argue that his ouster would break precedent in the House, given that only two members of Congress have been expelled in recent years.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., argued against Santos’ expulsion on the House floor, not (here) to defend George Santos, who, whoever he is, argued that expelling Santos would break House precedent.

Another GOP lawmaker opposed to Santos’ ouster, Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, rejected efforts to expel him from Congress and dismissed Santos’ impeachment as justification for his ouster.

“An accusation is not a punishment, so why remove a member from this House based on an accusation today? It’s never been done before and it shouldn’t happen today,” Nehals said. “In this country, I thought everyone was presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. I do not and will not support the removal of Rep. Santos.

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D’Esposito said the House Ethics Committee’s report was justification enough for the expulsion, adding, “If we don’t take the ethics committee and its decision seriously, why are we having that committee in the first place?”

Rep. Mark Molinaro, RN.Y., dismissed the arguments of Santos and his allies, saying he was “not elected, nor were any of us, to defend precedent. I was elected to defend the Constitution of the United States.

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