Embattled Representative George Santos steps down from committees

The Republican from New York faces ongoing scrutiny into his finances as well as falsehoods he made during his campaign.

George Santos walks past a US flag while walking back to his office.
US Representative George Santos returns to his office after telling a Republican party conference that he will temporarily remove himself from House committee assignments [Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

United States Representative George Santos has announced that he will temporarily step down from his committee assignments, as he faces criticism and investigations over his finances and false claims he made.

The freshman Republican had previously been named to two relatively low-profile Congressional committees: one on small business and the other on science, space and technology.

But on Tuesday, Santos issued a prepared statement saying he was leaving the posts for the time being, in order to serve his constituents “without distraction”.

Santos, who represents a district of New York that includes Long Island, also acknowledged that he had come to the decision with the help of top Republican Kevin McCarthy, whom he consistently backed for the position of House Speaker.

“I want to personally thank Speaker McCarthy for meeting with me to discuss the matter and allowing me to take time to properly clear my name before returning to my committees,” Santos said in his statement.

“To my constituents, I remain committed to serving the district, and delivering results for both New York’s Third Congressional District and for the American people.”

McCarthy confirmed that he had met with Santos the day prior to discuss the committee assignments.

“I thought it was an appropriate decision,” McCarthy said on Tuesday, as he walked into the Capitol building. He added that, once Santos answers the outstanding ethics questions against him, “then he will be seated on the committees”.

Santos faces multiple investigations, including probes into how he funded his political campaign. Though Santos had previously depicted himself as a self-made businessman, questions linger about how he amassed his fortune.

During his first race for a Congressional seat in 2020, Santos listed his yearly earnings at about $55,000. But in his financial disclosure statements last year, he reported earning $750,000 per year, as well as having more than $1m in savings. He also claimed to own an apartment in Brazil worth $1m.

Federal regulators have also discovered several irregularities in his campaign filings, including discrepancies in the amount of money Santos claims to have lent his campaign.

Another irregularity was the inclusion of a treasurer who claims to have never taken a job with Santos.

“It has come to the attention of the Federal Election Commission that you may have failed to include the true, correct or complete treasurer information,” the election commission said in a letter to the Santos campaign last week.

The letter called for the campaign committee to either confirm the contents of its filings or issue amendments.

Santos’s campaign first came under scrutiny after the New York Times raised questions about his personal and professional resume in December. Santos has since admitted that he made up key parts of his biography, describing his actions as “embellishing my resume”.

Santos is accused of falsely asserting that he worked for the financial organisations Citigroup and Goldman Sachs and that he received a college degree from Baruch College.

News reports have also found evidence to contradict Santos’s assertions that he descended from Jewish refugees who fled the Holocaust, and that his mother died in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001.

Amid the revelations, Democrats and even fellow Republicans have called for Santos to resign, something he has declined to do. Santos has also denied any criminal wrongdoing.

On Tuesday, California Representative Pete Aguilar, one of the leading Democrats in the House, reiterated his stance that “George Santos is not fit to serve on any committees”.

“I’m just struck by the chaos, confusion, dysfunction of the Republican conference. They defended putting him on committees and now they’re announcing he’s not going to serve on a committee,” Aguilar said.

He added: “It’s unfortunate when Republicans are put in a position to defend someone who only has a passing relationship with the truth.”

On Tuesday, New York’s Elise Stefanik, one of House’s top Republicans, was pressed by reporters on her previous support of Santos. She touted the fact that Santos’s victory in the 2022 midterms helped the Republicans achieve a slim majority in the House of Representatives.

“Ultimately, voters decide. And I’m very proud that in New York State, we flipped five districts to help deliver us the majority. And ultimately, voters make this decision about who they elect to Congress,” she said.

Republican leadership in the House has also been under scrutiny recently for attempting to remove three Democrats from their committee positions.

California representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both Democrats, were recently blocked from returning to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. And Republicans leaders are preparing a resolution to remove Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, another Democrat, from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Omar’s removal would have to be approved by a House vote, though, and some Republicans, including Ken Buck of Colorado, have voiced concern about the resolution.

“It’s just wrong,” Buck said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies