George Santos announces he won’t seek reelection following damning Ethics Committee report

Republican Rep. George Santos announced he will not seek reelection to the House next year, following the Ethics Committee’s release of a long-awaited report on Thursday, which concluded that there is “substantial evidence” that the New York congressman used campaign funds for personal purposes.

The committee said it uncovered additional “uncharged and unlawful conduct” by Santos that go beyond the criminal allegations already pending against him, and would immediately refer the allegations to the Justice Department for further investigation.

Santos engaged in “knowing and willful violations” with regard to financial disclosure statements filed with the House, according to the panel, and “knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports with the Federal Election Commission.”

The committee concluded that Santos “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.”

Following the release of the report, Santos announced that he will not seek reelection, though he remained defiant and denounced the investigation, calling it a “biased report.”

“It is a disgusting politicized smear that shows the depths of how low our federal government has sunk. Everyone who participated in this grave miscarriage of Justice should all be ashamed of themselves,” Santos wrote on X. He went on to say, “I will however NOT be seeking re-election for a second term in 2024 as my family deserves better than to be under the gun from the press all the time.”

The New York Republican later said that he will hold a press conference outside the Capitol on November 30 — the week Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess, and likely after the House votes on whether to expel him. Expulsion is exceedingly rare and requires the high bar of a two-thirds majority vote in the House to succeed. While a resolution to expel Santos failed earlier this month despite garnering some Republican votes, proponents have said they believe the report will be enough to convince more members to support the effort.

“Running for office was never a dream or goal, but when the opportunity to do so came I felt the time to serve my country was now,” Santos said in post on X Thursday evening. “Looking back today I know one thing, politics is indeed dirty, dirty from the very bottom up.”

The panel said that the conduct of the congressman merits “public condemnation, is beneath the dignity of the office, and has brought severe discredit upon the House.”

The panel also said Santos “did not fully cooperate” with the investigation.

Santos declined a voluntary interview and also did not submit a written response to the allegations from the Ethics panel.

But the committee decided against issuing a subpoena to Santos because of his likelihood to invoke his Fifth Amendment right and that his testimony “would have low evidentiary value given his admitted practice of embellishment.”

The report is the latest blow to the New York Republican, who has separately pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges, including allegations of fraud related to Covid-19 unemployment benefits, misusing campaign funds and lying about his personal finances on House disclosure reports.

A spokesman for Speaker Mike Johnson said in a statement that the report had “very troubling findings.” The statement did not call for Santos to resign, but said that Johnson urges lawmakers, including Santos, “to consider the best interests of the institution as this matter is addressed further.”

“The Speaker has reviewed the report and its very troubling findings,” Raj Shah, deputy chief of staff for communications for the speaker, said in a statement. As members from both parties, members of the Ethics Committee and Representative Santos return to Congress after the Thanksgiving break, Speaker Johnson encourages all involved to consider the best interests of the institution as this matter is addressed further.”

Supporters of expelling Santos to revive effort

House Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest, a Mississippi Republican, will make a motion to expel Santos as soon as Friday during the pro forma session, a source familiar told CNN, which would tee up action on the issue for when Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess. The reasoning here is that having Guest make the motion will be seen as less political and give other members more cover to back it, according to sources involved in the planning.

While the committee didn’t include a disciplinary recommendation in its report because that would have taken more time, the fact that the chairman is making the motion will send a strong signal to the rest of the Republican conference — and is a sign this expulsion effort could succeed this time around.

Two other Ethics Committee members also came out in support of expelling Santos Thursday morning.

Rep. Susan Wild, the top Democrat on the panel, has voted present on previous expulsion efforts but says she is no longer obligated to remain neutral now that their investigative work is complete.

And Rep. Andrew Garbarino, a New York Republican and committee member who has also held off on expulsion up until this point, also says he will now support it.

“There is significant evidence that he exploited his position for personal gain. He is undeserving of public office,” Garbarino said in a statement.

In early November, a Republican-led effort to expel Santos failed in the House. A number of lawmakers had expressed concern over the prospect of expelling a member facing an as-yet unfinished legal battle and absent a criminal conviction. Ahead of the vote, Santos defended his right to “the presumption of innocence.”

In May, the House voted to refer a Democrat-led resolution to expel Santos to the Ethics Committee, a move that allowed Republicans to avoid weighing in directly on the contentious question of expulsion.

Santos has long faced calls to resign from both Republicans and Democrats over his legal issues as well as an extensive and well-documented track record of fabrications and lies about his resume and biography. Those calls are likely to grow louder in the wake of the report.

In an interview with CNN’s Manu Raju earlier this month, Santos acknowledged mistakes in his handling of key issues outlined in the criminal indictments against him even as he forcefully defended himself. He blamed “stupidity” and “insecurity” for his wide-ranging fabrications, but he also downplayed the significance of those fabrications and argued that his constituents did not vote for him based on his biography.

Report shows evidence of campaign funds used for personal travel and cosmetics

The Ethics Committee provided extensive evidence showing that Santos used campaign funds for lavish personal use as he racked up significant travel expenses for flights, hotels, Ubers and meals that do not appear to have any political or campaign purpose.

In December 2021, there were taxi and hotel charges from Las Vegas on the campaign credit card, even though that was a time when Santos had told his campaign staff he was on his honeymoon and there were no campaign events on his calendar.

An FEC report listed a July 7, 2022, $3,332.81 Airbnb expenditure as a “Hotel stay,” when the campaign’s calendar revealed Santos was “off at [the] Hampton’s for the weekend.”

There were also spa and cosmetic services that did not appear to have a campaign purpose, such as $1,400 at Virtual Skin Spa in Jericho, New York, in July 2022.

There was a $1,500 purchase on the campaign debit card at Mirza Aesthetics, which was not reported to the FEC and was noted as “Botox” in expense spreadsheets. The $1,400 charge at Virtual Skin Spa was a campaign debit card purchase that was also described as “Botox” in the spreadsheets.

Panel concludes sexual misconduct allegation was not substantiated

The Ethics panel said there was not substantial evidence to support a sexual misconduct allegation brought against Santos.

The claim that Santos may have engaged in sexual misconduct was brought by an individual seeking employment in his congressional office, referred to in the report as witness 10. The investigative panel “was unable to substantiate this allegation,” according to the report.

Witness 10 was asked to come to Santos’ congressional office on January 25, 2023, to meet the team. Witness 10 returned to the office on several occasions, but then was told to wait until Human Resources cleared his hire and he could be properly onboarded. On February 1, the offer was rescinded “due to the office’s concerns about then-pending felony wiretapping charges against him.”

Two days later, the individual filed a complaint with the House Ethics committee alleging Santos “engaged in sexual misconduct towards him while they were alone in the Congressman’s office on January 25, 2023, ‘going over mail correspondence from constituents.’ ”

Investigators say in the report they were unable to substantiate this claim.

The report also stated that testimony from other witnesses the panel interviewed contradicted the individual’s claims about reviewing mail and being alone with Santos.

Beyond that, the committee raised concerns about the individual’s credibility, saying there were inconsistencies in witness 10’s testimony and that the person admitted to contacting the FBI with the allegation in order to be paid for information regarding Santos.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Fredreka Schouten, Lauren Fox and Haley Talbot contributed to this report.

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