Federal prosecutors have filed criminal charges against New York Rep. George Santos, a Republican lawmaker whose astonishing array of lies and fabrications baffles even hardened politicians, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
Santos is expected to appear as soon as Wednesday in federal court in the Eastern District of New York, where the charges have been filed under seal.
The exact nature of the allegations was not immediately known, but the FBI and Department of Justice public integrity prosecutors in New York and Washington are investigating allegations of false statements in Santos’ campaign finance filings and other claims.
A lawyer for Congress declined to comment. Spokesmen for the Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office, the Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment.
Santos’ spokeswoman, Nyssa Woomer, would not answer a barrage of questions from reporters Tuesday afternoon and abruptly left the congressman’s DC office with her bag when asked about the federal charges against him. Before she left the office, CNN saw three of Santos’ employees suddenly leave with their bags. They don’t talk when asked for feedback.
The new congressman, elected last year to represent the district that includes parts of Long Island and Queens, is under investigation by multiple jurisdictions and the House Ethics Committee.
Top Democrats, joined by some New York Republicans, have called for Santos’ resignation over allegations ranging from criminal conduct on the campaign trail to petty personal dishonesty spanning more than a decade.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he would look into the allegations before deciding whether he thinks Santos should be removed from Congress.
“I look at the allegations,” the California Republican told CNN on Tuesday.
During his short tenure, Santos was accused of violating campaign finance laws, violating federal usury laws, stealing money from an Iraq war veteran’s dying dog, masterminding a credit card fraud scheme, and lying about where he went to school. served
Santos has admitted to making some false claims about his education and financial status, but continues to deny the more serious allegations.
During his successful campaign last year, Santos ran according to the Republican midterm playbook, attacking his Democratic opponent on crime and inflation. The news echoed in the New York suburbs, where GOP candidates flipped four seats and won slim majorities.
But Santos’ past has come under closer scrutiny, revealing large swathes of his official biography to be nothing but fiction, as he has increasingly adapted the persona of a right-wing troll.
He expressed his support for former President Donald Trump and once said that Democrats were “trying to ban toilet paper.”
New York Republicans have sought to distance themselves from Santos, saying they know nothing of his shady past and some have repeatedly urged him to leave office.
“I reiterate my call for George Santos to resign,” New York Rep. Mike Lawler said in a statement. Lawler flipped the Democratic-held seat north of New York City last year and is expected to face a tough challenge in 2024.
Republicans from more conservative districts were less outspoken.
New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis told CNN, “I’m not surprised. I understand where this is going, but stop short of asking Santos to resign.
“I’d love to see someone new run because I can tell you we’re going to hold that seat, so the sooner Santos gets out, the sooner we can get someone in there who’s not a liar,” the Staten Island Republican said.
GOP Reps. Ryan Zinke of Montana and Blake Moore of Utah pointed to the House Ethics Committee’s investigation into Santos.
“Let the ethics investigation happen, and if it produces anything, he should be fired,” Moore said.
Zinke told CNN, “If there’s an allegation and there’s merit to the allegation, (the ethics committee) should look into it.”
“I’m surprised (Santos) made it as far as he did,” said Zinke, who resigned from his post leading the Interior Department during the Trump administration amid much scrutiny. (An inspector general’s report later found he abused his position.)
Arkansas Rep. French Hill, who is close to House GOP leadership, said he wants to see the charges but “I believe that if a member of Congress is charged with a federal crime they should resign.”
Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to shake off the embarrassment of not exposing Santos and other neighboring seats in 2024 sooner rather than later in what promises to be a costly race to win them back.
“Now that Santos has been impeached, it is Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s duty to remove Santos’ taint from this hallowed institution by immediately removing him from Congress,” said New York Rep. Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor and adviser on Trump’s first impeachment. , said in a statement. “We can’t wait any longer.”
The cracks in Santos’ facade first made national headlines in late December 2022, when the New York Times published a lengthy investigation that called into question large parts of the personal story he sold to voters during the campaign. However, what followed was often stranger than fiction. An endless series of new revelations, from allegations that she stole a dog from an Amish dairy farmer to her own past claims of playing high-level college volleyball.
As the stories piled up, former friends and associates of Santos came forward and began sharing stories claiming he had ripped them off or misrepresented his financial and professional situation. A former roommate of the congressman told CNN earlier this year that Santos showed signs of “delusions of pride” during their time together.
“The truth is finally out,” said Gregory Morey-Parker, who also accused Santos of stealing her scarf. An allegation like many others Santos denies.
The charges, from a legal standpoint, do not affect Santos’ status as a member of Congress. Except for the 14th Amendment’s prohibitions on treasonable conduct, none of the Constitution’s requirements for congressional office bar individuals under criminal charges or convictions after a member has taken the oath of office.
Under formal rules for the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a Congressional Research Service report, “an impeached member may continue to participate in the proceedings and deliberations of Congress.”
However, if a member is charged with an offense punishable by two or more years in prison, they are advised not to participate in floor or committee votes under the rules of the House.
This story has been updated with additional details.