The trick behind George Santos’ pledge not to run for re-election

The trick behind George Santos’ pledge not to run for re-election

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On Thursday, the House Ethics investigative subcommittee released its scathing report on Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y. Shortly thereafter, Santos announced that he wouldnt run for re-election in 2024. But as with anything Santos-related, it’s important to take everything he says with a grain of salt. After all, to use a phrase directly from the subcommittee’s report, Santos’ latest promise could be just “another lie.”

House Republicans have continually sidestepped responsibility for Santos’ remaining in power, with a majority of GOP members voting twice against expelling him. Some have claimed they were waiting for the committee’s report to drop before taking action. Now that the investigative subcommittee has “determined there was substantial evidence that Representative Santos violated federal criminal laws,” those members are out of excuses. But with the committee stating it would “not bring specific charges” against him and Santos signaling his intention not to run again, he’s making a gamble that he’ll wriggle out of consequences. And it just might work.

Even for Santos, the attempt to distract from the Ethics report was too heavy-handed.

“If there was a single ounce of ETHICS in the ‘Ethics committee’, they would have not released this biased report,” Santos posted on X on Thursday morning. “The Committee went to extraordinary lengths to smear myself and my legal team about me not being forthcoming (My legal bills suggest otherwise).”

His post on X runs over 300 words — a length available only to users who pay to use the platform — and makes a wide range of accusations and peculiar calls to action. But the most important bit is buried in the sixth paragraph. “I will continue on my mission to serve my constituents up until I am allowed,” he wrote. “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.”

Even for Santos, the attempt to distract from the Ethics report was too heavy-handed. 

“Representative Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit,” the report summary states. “He blatantly stole from his campaign. He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit.”

It goes on to say that Santos reported “fictitious loans,” used connections to high-profile donors to enrich himself further and consistently lied to everyone around him about his personal credentials. The 56-page report itself paints a damning picture of Santos’ involvement in his own financial schemes, rebutting his claims that his campaign treasurer Nancy Marks’ “incompetence” led to all his woes and that Marks went “rogue.” 

“He was the ultimate beneficiary and knowing participant of much of the fraudulent reporting, as the falsely reported personal loans and contributions helped him meet benchmarks needed to win the support of the national party and project a strong campaign to the public,” the report reads. “Even if Representative Santos was not aware of all of the other errors in his campaign reports relating to other receipts and disbursements, he had his own concerns and was repeatedly advised by multiple members of his team about concerns regarding Ms. Marks, but he failed to take meaningful action.”

While the details of the report aren’t new, it’s significant to see them printed on House stationery.

Marks herself was indicted in early October and pleaded guilty to conspiring with a congressional candidate to commit wire fraud, make materially false statements, obstruct the administration of the Federal Election Commission and commit aggravated identity theft. Five days later, Santos was hit with a 23-count superseding indictment from the Justice Department.

While the details of the report aren’t new, it’s significant to see them printed on House stationery. Despite the Justice Department indictment, until now Santos’ workplace hasn’t made an official comment on the veracity of the claims he faces. However, the subcommittee’s stated intention not to bring charges makes the whole report rather toothless, essentially asking the Justice Department to do the hard work of holding Santos accountable.

There are a few issues with this strategy: Santos’ trial isn’t set to take place until September, near the end of his congressional term. So essentially, the investigative subcommittee is letting him serve out the rest of his term while he awaits trial. There have already been two votes on the House floor to expel him, both of which have failed. It’s highly likely another vote will be held: Both Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., the chair of the Ethics Committee, and Rep. Daniel Goldman, D-N.Y., who filed the original ethics complaint, said they would file motions to expel. But even then, 80 Republicans will have to vote to expel Santos to reach the required two-thirds threshold — more than three times the number who voted to expel him this month. 

Santos’ Thursday morning announcement, no matter how ham-fisted, may actually be enough to get him out of trouble in the House. With Republicans’ slim majority, Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has signaled he wouldn’t pursue expulsion. “We have no margin for error,” he told Sean Hannity in late October. “And so George Santos is due due process. We have to allow due process to play itself out. That’s what our system of justice is for. If we’re going to expel people from Congress just because they’re accused, that’s a problem.”

Add on top of that the fact that the small contingent of Long Island Republicans most eager to oust Santos were doing so mainly because they thought he’d hurt their re-election campaigns. But if Santos isn’t on the ballot next November, they can distance themselves more easily from his stench, and they might back off just enough to keep Santos safe.

And so, Santos may wriggle free once more. At least until September. 

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