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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | Back issues
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Santos shrugs House committee appointments as ethics probes abound

Elected after massively deceiving the public about his personal and professional backgrounds, the freshman congressman has been mired for weeks by investigations into those lies as well as his murky campaign finances.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Republican Representative George Santos stepped down Tuesday from House committee service in the face of the multiple investigations he faces from local and federal authorities.

“With the ongoing attention surrounding both my personal and campaign financial investigations, I have submitted a request to Speaker McCarthy that I be temporarily recused from my committee assignments until I am cleared,” the 34-year-old Santos said in a statement on Tuesday. “This was a decision that I take very seriously. The business of the 118th Congress must continue without media fanfare. It is important that I primarily focus on serving the constituents of New York’s Third Congressional District and providing federal level representation without distraction.”

Santos' announcement Tuesday coincides with the release of polling from Newsday and Siena College that shows an overwhelming majority of his constituents living in northwestern Queens and the northern half of Long Island’s Nassau County do not think Santos can be an effective representative for the people of the 3rd Congressional District.

Federal as well as New York state authorities began their investigations of Santos about a month ago in the wake of an expose by The New York Times that showed Santos had told sweeping lies about his educational, employment and family background during the 2022 campaign that ended with him flipping a formerly Democratic seat in Congress.

By a 2-to-1 margin, people who say they voted for Santos in November now say they would not have voted for him had they known then what they know now about Santos.

The poll quotes Santos as having said earlier this month that “he wouldn’t resign until the 142,000 people that voted for him ask him to resign.”

Santos has played down his biographical distortions as minor resume embellishments and has refused calls from even within his own party to step down. Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy assigned the freshman congressman in turn to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Small Business Committee.

The speaker also fared poorly in the poll conducted for three days last week among 653 registered voters in the 3rd Congressional District: 71% say it was wrong for McCarthy to have seated Santos on two congressional committees. McCarthy and Santos met behind closed doors the day before Santos announced his recusal.

“Why stop there,” U.S. Represenative Ritchie Torres tweeted with regard to his fellow congressman on Tuesday. “George Santos should resign from Congress.”

Torres, a Bronx-based Democrat elected to New York's 15th congressional district, has called on Congress to tighten campaign fraud standards by making it illegal for candidates to lie about their education, employment or military service. Torres titled his bill the Stop Another Non-Truthful Office Seeker Act, the initial letters of which spell out Santos. 

In an amusing literary coincidence, Santos' district encompasses the affluent North Shore of Long Island where F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel "The Great Gatsby" was set. His district office is headquartered in the Douglaston–Little Neck neighborhood in the northeastern part of Queens bordering Long Island’s Nassau County. The storefront window and green awning of the former shop still bears the name of his predecessor, Thomas R. Suozzi.

In addition to facing a probe announced by Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly, Santos is reportedly the subject of a federal criminal investigation in the Eastern District of New York.

The revelations about Santos' personal distortions have divided members of his party, but McCarthy recently said that to forsake Santos would be treacherous to voters. “You know why I’m standing by him? Because his constituents voted for him.”

Among other falsehoods, Santos lied about having graduated from Baruch College in New York; having worked at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs; and having lost his mother in the September 11, 2001, attacks. The woman actually died in 2016.

Santos has played down the lies about his employment history as a “poor choice of words." He also jokingly referred to himself as “Jew-ish,” despite previously calling himself an “American Jew” and falsely claiming that his grandparents survived the Holocaust. 

On other flat-out lies, Santos essentially came clean. 

“I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning. I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume,” he said. “I own up to that. … We do stupid things in life.”

Despite boasting ownership of more than a dozen properties while campaigning, Santos does not appear to own a house or apartment, and he has failed to pay rent to multiple landlords. “We didn’t pay it off,” Santos said of arrears he owed on a Queens apartment. “I completely forgot about it.”

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Categories / Government, National, Politics

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