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Criminal, ethics probes sought over background of Rep.-elect George Santos

Criminal, ethics probes sought over background of Rep.-elect George Santos

Posted December 22, 2022 at 2:56pm

Calls are mounting for both ethics and criminal investigations of Republican Rep.-elect George Santos, though not from House Republican leadership.

Santos, who won an open New York seat in November, said in a tweet Thursday that he planned to address questions after Christmas about his biography and financial dealings first raised in a New York Times report earlier this week.

 “I have my story to tell and it will be told next week. I want to assure everyone that I will address your questions and that I remain committed to deliver the results I campaigned on; Public safety, Inflation, Education & more,” he said.

The tweet was posted shortly after NY1 reported that the office of Letitia James, the New York state attorney general, was reviewing the allegations against Santos.

Incoming House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said Wednesday that Santos, whose full name appears to be George Anthony Devolder Santos, needed to answer questions being raised by constituents.

“Right now, George Santos appears to be in the Witness Protection Program. No one can find him,” Jeffries, D-N.Y., said at a news conference.

Accountable.US, a nonpartisan but left-leaning advocacy group, filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against Santos dated Wednesday that was circulated Thursday.

“If Mr. Santos takes office, his reportedly false biographical claims, inaccurate financial disclosures, and undisclosed criminal background will warrant an immediate investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics. He has refused to address these concerns and must be held accountable for his ethical transgressions,” Kyle Herrig, the president of Accountable.US, wrote.

The office would not have any jurisdiction over Santos until he becomes a member of Congress. There could be enough questions about Santos’ resume to challenge him being seated on Jan. 3, though it would seem more likely that an investigation and possible sanction would take place after he takes office.

The Supreme Court precedent in Powell v. McCormick says that the only criteria under which the House may exclude a duly-elected member are the tests outlined in the Constitution. The only real question there would be if Santos, who says he was born in Queens before living in Brazil, were not a citizen.

Santos won election to a Long Island and Queens seat in one of the key majority-making wins for the Republicans, and he has expressed support for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to be elected speaker in January.

Reporters at the Capitol said McCarthy declined to entertain questions about Santos on Thursday.

The Times on Monday reported that Santos has been involved in a criminal check fraud case in Brazil (to which Jeffries alluded on Wednesday), and that a charity he has touted in the past may not be legitimate. And much of the Santos biography appears to be fabricated, including parts of his educational background that he had confirmed to CQ Roll Call directly during new member orientation.

Santos claims to have graduated from Baruch College, an affiliated institution of the City University of New York system, in 2010. Baruch College says there is no such record of a graduate by the Santos name or several known alternate names.

New York University, likewise, could not find a record of Santos as a student. Santos’ candidate biography said he attended the school. Other media outlets have reported that Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, where Santos has said he worked, have no record of his employment there.

Information from the Santos campaign had led CQ Roll Call to believe Santos is Jewish; he has said his grandparents fled Ukraine during World War II and ultimately settled in Brazil, where his mother was born. But that also may not be true, with Forward reporting on evidence Santos’s maternal grandparents were also born in Brazil.

“It’s beyond despicable for any candidate to try to use the horrors of World War II and the persecution of Jewish people to advance their own political ambitions,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Nebeyatt Betre said in a statement. “Someone who would lie to Long Island voters like this is simply unfit to serve. It’s well past time for Santos to stop hiding and to tell the truth for once.”

Rep.-elect Dan Goldman, a prosecutor for the first impeachment of President Donald Trump and a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Manhattan-based Southern District of New York, said Tuesday that the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn should investigate Santos.

Goldman, a Democrat, said in a statement that the allegations in the Times reporting suggest potential false statements to the Federal Election Commission and the charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

“The fact that Santos has previously been convicted of fraud in Brazil — from which conviction he remains a fugitive — underscores the urgent need for his conduct surrounding his most recent election to be investigated,” Goldman said.

Santos’ attorney Joe Murray said Wednesday that he had nothing to share beyond an initial statement he issued in response to the Times.

“It is no surprise that Congressman-elect Santos has enemies at the New York Times who are attempting to smear his good name with these defamatory allegations,” the statement said in part, while also misattributing a quote to Winston Churchill.

News outlets and Democratic opposition researchers missed the breadth of inconsistencies in the Santos record ahead of Election Day. CQ Roll Call seeks to conduct advance interviews with, and gather biographical data on, prospective members of Congress in preparation for writing profiles of new members after the election, and much of the information obtained by CQ Roll Call from the Santos team may be inaccurate.

Suzanne Monyak and Paul V. Fontelo contributed to this report.

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