Embattled Republican representative-elect George Santos of New York is under investigation by local prosecutors, following his admission of lies concerning his background during his successful 2022 campaign for the US Congress.
The first probe, announced on Wednesday by Santos’ fellow Republican in Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly, comes amid mounting criticism of the young politician, who was one of several GOP hopefuls to prevail in a significantly flipped New York slate.
Federal prosecutors for the Eastern District of New York have also begun an investigation, as has the Queens district attorney’s office, covering another area Santos is set to represent on the Hill beginning Tuesday. MSNBC has reported that the New York attorney general’s office is also looking into Santos’ actions.
Santos has resisted calls for his resignation and has not addressed the controversy beyond a brief statement from his lawyer on December 19 and his admission a week later that he isn’t Jewish, never worked on Wall Street, and did not attend Baruch College—all of which he had previously claimed. Santos did respond to a request for comment.
“The residents of Nassau County and other parts of the third district must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress,” Donnelly told the Associated Press on Thursday.
“If a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it.”
The right-leaning paper reported that Santos was exaggerating his net worth and property holdings, among his other questionable statements. The New York Times gave the story national attention in late December and exposed Santos to bipartisan critique.
The 34-year-old millennial upstart—a self-proclaimed Afro-Latino Catholic who has openly identified with the LGBTQ+ community but ran on a hard-right platform—previously campaigned unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2020.
“George Santos represents the kind of progress the left is so threatened by—a gay, Latino, first-generation American and Republican who won a Biden district in overwhelming fashion,” his lawyer Joseph Murray said last month.
“It is no surprise that Congressman-elect Santos has enemies at the New York Times who are attempting to smear his good name with these defamatory allegations.”
Republicans are expected to hold a razor-thin advantage in the House of Representatives for the 118th Congress, which is set to open on January 3 in Washington.
Santos, the son of Brazilian immigrants, is possibly one of several Republicans of color in that landscape, though he has not typically been counted among the record-tying number of Black Republicans set to take office soon on Capitol Hill. Even so, Santos has publicly claimed for years that he is biracial.
“I’m Euro African and proud of it,” he tweeted in late 2021.
Santos would be only the second self-identifying Black Catholic in the 118th Congress, but his ethnicity remains unclear and his growing list of alleged misdeeds have cast doubts on his fitness for office.
Among the other concerns, Santos was shown in December to have confessed to check fraud while living in Brazil in his late teens; authorities overseas say the case is yet to be resolved. He is also alleged to live outside of his congressional district, in a house he and his husband moved into after Santos reportedly left $17,000 in damages at a previous residence.
In dual interviews on December 26, Santos maintained that his credentials are solid, telling local radio station WABC that he is “not a criminal.”
“I’m not going to make excuses for this, but a lot of people overstate in their resumes, or twist a little bit… I’m not saying I’m not guilty of that.”
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).