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George Santos expelled from Congress

The freshman GOP legislator was a firebrand for controversy, mostly due to varied indiscretions that led to criminal charges during his short time in office.

George Santos is surrounded by journalists as he leaves the U.S. Capitol after being expelled from the House of Representatives on Dec. 1, 2023. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Republican lawmaker George Santos was expelled from the House of Representatives on Friday in Washington, following roughly a year of unchecked controversy, including criminal charges of fraud and conspiracy.

A bipartisan consensus voted 311-114 to oust the 35-year-old freshman legislator, including nearly half of the chamber’s Republicans present. 112 GOP members—including Speaker Mike Johnson and other House leaders—voted to keep Santos but to no avail.

“The House spoke. That’s their vote,” Santos told reporters following the gavel that marked the end of his short zenith.

“They just set a dangerous new precedent for themselves.”

The congressman has maintained his innocence throughout the 14-month affair, including two previous expulsion votes in May and November. Santos’ GOP colleagues in New York have been leaders in the charge to have him removed, with neighboring Rep. Anthony D’Esposito calling him a “fraudster.”

Santos is charged in federal court with one count of conspiracy, nine counts of wire fraud, four counts of making materially false statements to the Federal Election Commission, two counts of falsifying records, two counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of access device fraud, one count of theft of public funds, and three counts of money laundering.

He has pled not guilty, but a House Ethics Committee report released in November revealed a pattern of deceptive behavior, largely unifying public opinion against him in Congress as well as among his erstwhile political allies. 

Known as a hard-right voice with millennial appeal, Santos has nevertheless struggled to gain ground with much of the GOP majority in the House as he battles accusations that he lied during his campaign about his background and used campaign donations for personal gain. 

He had maintained the support of Republicans wary of losing their slight majority in the House ahead of the 2024 general election, but in the end it was not enough to stave off strong expulsion sentiment.

“George Santos has finally been held accountable by a strong bipartisan majority for his egregiously unprecedented, unethical and unlawful behavior. He is a serial fraudster who conducted himself in a manner unbecoming of the House of Representatives.,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a Democrat, in a statement after Friday morning’s vote.

“Today represents an important step forward in ensuring that the House of Representatives has a basic standard of professionalism as we endeavor to solve problems on behalf of hardworking American taxpayers.”

Santos has faced heavy scrutiny since late December 2022, when the New York Times noted discrepancies in his self-reported net worth, among other concerns. The story first broke in the North Shore Leader before Santos triumphed that November over his Democratic opponent in New York’s 3rd congressional district.

A self-proclaimed Afro-Latino Catholic openly identified with the LGBTQ+ community, Santos previously campaigned unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2020. After his election, Santos was appointed to—and later resigned from—his committee assignments.

Federal prosecutors quickly announced an investigation into Santos last fall, following a separate probe initiated by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The Nassau County district attorney later announced its own investigation. Two of Santos' former campaign fundraisers have also been indicted on federal charges of fraud.

Santos was arrested in May following his indictment, but while out on bail remained defiant amid calls to resign. He also initially said he would run for re-election in 2024, a commitment he later reneged on following the damning House Ethics report this fall.

By the time of Congress’ Thanksgiving recess, Santos said online that he expected to be expelled soon and would “wear it like a badge of honor.”

“I’ll be the only one expelled because people did not like me.”

Santos has now become the first Republican in history to be expelled from the House, and the first from any party to be expelled without a federal conviction. (A number of House members were also expelled during the Civil War for allying with the seceding Confederates, and Santos is just the third representative to fall in an expulsion vote since.)

Republicans now hold a 221-213 majority in the House and Democrats could make gains with a special election for Santos’ former seat, now considered a toss-up district ahead of a vote early next year.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, the Democrat who will call the election, described Santos’ short stint in Congress as “an abysmal run.”

“He has not served the people of our state, particularly New York 3 where he resides.”

That New York district, flipped red by Santos after ten years as a blue stronghold, is expected to be contested by any one of several Nassau County Republicans. Among them are two African Americans, County Rep. Mazi Pilip and Kellen Curry, who has already declared for the 2024 Republican primary.

Democrat Tom Suozzi, who preceded Santos in the third district seat and left to run for governor, has also declared for his party’s primary and is considered a favorite to run in the special election.

Santos, who for now retains the privilege to enter the House chambers, fired off a series of tweets on his personal Twitter/X account into early Saturday morning saying that he plans to file ethics complaints against several New York-area representatives on Monday.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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