Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.)—who has refused to resign despite admitting to fabricating significant parts of his resume—will be ousted from Congress if he is found to be in violation of campaign finance laws, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) told CNN on Sunday, though Comer stopped short of calling for Santos to resign.
While appearing on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Comer called Santos a “bad guy” and added that he hadn’t even introduced himself to the New York Republican because of his “pretty despicable” lies.
Comer said Santos will face a “strict ethics investigation” that will focus on possible campaign finance issues instead of his lies about his background.
The Republican lawmaker from Kentucky did not urge Santos to resign, added that it was not up to him or any other members of Congress to kick Santos out for lying as he had been duly elected, unless he violated campaign finance rules.
Santos’ fellow lawmakers could choose to expel him from the House, but such a move would require support from two-thirds of the House, making it highly unlikely in a chamber narrowly controlled by Republicans.
Comer did not clarify how long the investigation into Santos will take.
Comer is the latest House Republican to express his displeasure about Santos’ lies, as several other GOP House members—mostly from Santos’ state of New York—have called for his resignation.
During his House campaign in the midterm elections, Santos lied about multiple aspects of his resume, including his wealth, his previous career and even his mother’s death. In his campaign website, Santos claimed his maternal parents had fled from Ukraine during the Second World War to avoid anti-Jewish persecution. However, records reviewed by the Jewish-American publication The Forward found that his maternal grandparents were both born in Brazil. Santos also claimed that his mother had died on 9/11 but later tweeted that she had died in 2016. His campaign website tried to clarify this discrepancy by claiming his mother was present at the attacks and later died due to cancer. Santos also allegedly made false claims about his income, his previous jobs, the number of properties he owned and his college graduation status.
Questions have been raised about Santos’ financial disclosures and campaign fundraising. Despite disclosing an income of only $55,000 during a failed 2020 congressional campaign, Santos later reported a $750,000 salary along with an additional $10 million in dividends between 2021 and 2022 through Devolder Organization, a company he claims he founded in 2021, and he says he lent $700,000 to his 2022 campaign. Last week, the watchdog group Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Devolder was a shell company that was being used to funnel money to Santos’ campaign. Santos’ campaign also said it sought donations through a group called Redstone Strategies, but the FEC told the New York Times it could not find evidence of Redstone being registered as a political group or having any records of its donors and spending. Santos has not been formally accused of a crime, but last month, the New York Attorney General’s office said it was examining allegations against Santos. Later in December, Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly, who is a Republican, said her office had opened an investigation into Santos for “numerous fabrications and inconsistencies.”
Despite facing criticism from his colleagues, Santos appears to still have the support of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) who refused to push him to resign last week, saying the voters had elected him and he was now “part of the Republican conference.” McCarthy added that any concerns about Santos should be left to the House Ethics Committee, which is divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Santos then appeared on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast and said he would resign only when the 142,000-plus voters who elected him in November, called on him to do so. Despite this, six Republican House members from New York have called for Santos’ resignation, and New York’s Nassau County GOP also demanded that Santos step down for his “campaign of lies, deceit and fabrication.”