The walls — both political and legal — are closing in on Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.).
The embattled New York Republican is coming off a bruising week that began with his second former aide taking a plea deal, continued with the release of a damning Ethics report and ended with the introduction of another expulsion resolution that could end his career in Congress.
But the Santos storm is likely to worsen: The congressman is staring down a third potential vote on his ouster, which appears more and more likely to succeed as a growing number of lawmakers initially apprehensive toward expulsion say they will vote to remove him from office.
At least 12 Republicans who did not vote to remove Santos earlier this month say they now support expulsion, citing the 56-page Ethics report, which cited “substantial evidence” that the first-term lawmaker “violated federal criminal laws.”
“After today’s release of the report from the Ethics Committee, it is clear that George Santos is unfit to serve and should be removed from office. George has betrayed the trust of his constituents who deserve honesty and transparency from their elected official,” Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.), who previously voted against expulsion, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.), a member of the Ethics Committee who did not cast any vote on the Santos expulsion referendum earlier this month, said he will vote to remove Santos from office.
“He is undeserving of public office,” Garbarino, who represents a district that neighbors Santos’s, said in a statement. “Now that the Ethics Committee has completed its investigation and issued its report outlining his reprehensible actions, I will support the expulsion of Congressman George Santos from the House of Representatives.”
A handful of Democrats who voted against ousting Santos earlier this month — including Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who opposed the effort over concerns of setting a dangerous precedent — also threw their support behind expulsion in the wake of the Ethics report, taking a stance against the embattled lawmaker after reviewing the panel’s work.
Those newfound expulsion backers join the 179 lawmakers — 24 Republicans, 155 Democrats — who voted to oust Santos on Nov. 1, bringing the congressman’s sharpest critics that much closer to the required two-thirds margin to boot him from office.
A vote could take place as soon as the week of Nov. 28, when lawmakers return from the Thanksgiving recess. Santos, for his part, derided the Ethics report as “biased” and “a disgusting politicized smear.”
Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.), the chair of the House Ethics Committee, introduced a resolution to expel Santos on Friday morning, taking the first step toward removing him from office after the panel skewered the New York Republican.
“The evidence uncovered in the Ethics Committee’s Investigative Subcommittee investigation is more than sufficient to warrant punishment and the most appropriate punishment, is expulsion,” Guest wrote in a statement, even after the panel stopped short of recommending expulsion in its report.
Guest could call the expulsion legislation to the floor as a privileged resolution when the House returns to Washington after Thanksgiving, a procedural gambit that would force leadership to act on the measure within two legislative days. It is unclear if the Ethics chair plans to go down that path.
If not Guest, other lawmakers are lining up to kick off the expulsion process that, if successful, would make Santos the sixth lawmaker ousted from the House in history, and the first without having been convicted on criminal charges or accused of being disloyal to the Union.
Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) — who forced the first vote on ousting Santos, which ended in a referral to the Ethics Committee — said he would submit a privileged resolution to expel Santos when the House reconvenes Nov. 28. Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), who submitted the Ethics complaint against Santos, said he plans to do the same.
Some lawmakers, however, were not immediately convinced by the Ethics report, refusing to disclose how they would weigh in on a potential vote.
Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told CNN in an interview Thursday that he is undecided on Santos’s ouster but expressed reservations regarding expelling a lawmaker who has not been convicted of a crime.
“The precedent has been in both parties that people don’t get expelled unless they get convicted of a crime,” he said, noting that he had not yet read the report.
Amid the political drama, Santos has already lost at least one key staffer. Gabrielle Lipsky, his communications director, resigned Friday.
Santos’s legal peril, meanwhile, is mounting, as he faces 23 federal criminal counts and stares down a September 2024 trial start date. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
On Tuesday, a former fundraiser for Santos admitted to impersonating a House leadership aide and charging donors’ credit cards without authorization when he was working for the New York Republican. Samuel Miele pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and stipulated to committing access device fraud, becoming the second ex-Santos staffer to take a plea deal with prosecutors.
In October, Nancy Marks, Santos’s former campaign treasurer, pleaded guilty to conspiring with the then-candidate to fraudulently inflate his campaign finance reports.
While it is unclear if the plea deals from Miele and Marks included an agreement to testify against Santos, they have nonetheless fueled the political pressure he is facing. The Ethics Committee’s report, for example, mentioned Marks several times, using her guilty plea to push back on the congressman’s argument that the ex-treasurer was to blame for errors in his campaign reporting.
“When reporting errors in his campaign filings with the FEC were initially uncovered, Representative Santos attempted to cast himself as an unknowing victim of Ms. Marks’ ‘incompetence’ and claimed that she went ‘rogue,’” the report reads. “Far from going rogue, Ms. Marks has admitted to conspiring with Representative Santos to submit false reports to the FEC, and the [investigative subcommittee’s] record established that Representative Santos was heavily involved in the day-to-day financial operations his campaign.”
Despite the intensifying political and legal drama, Santos has remained, for the most part, defiant. The New York Republican did announce Thursday that he will no longer seek reelection in 2024, but he gave no indication of stepping down before his term ends, writing on X: “I will continue on my mission to serve my constituents up until I am allowed.”
He reiterated that message in a social media post Thursday night, which began with the statement “My year from Hell,” writing: “I will continue to fight for what I believe in and I will never back down.”