George Santos Faces Calls To Resign From 4 G.O.P. Congressmen
Dozens of Republican officials in New York State, including four recently elected congressmen, urged Representative George Santos to resign on Wednesday in a fracturing of local party support for Mr. Santos. Their call represented a sharp break from congressional Republican leaders, who insisted they would not push the embattled congressman to resign.
Even as Mr. Santos’s former allies in New York insisted that his fabrications on the campaign trail had significantly violated the public trust, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that he not only would resist calls to push Mr. Santos out, but that he planned to seat him on a congressional committee.
“The voters elected him to serve,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters in Washington, adding that Mr. Santos “has to answer to the voters and the voters can make another decision in two years.”
Mr. Santos, who was elected to represent New York’s Third Congressional District, a consequential swing district in Queens and Long Island, emphatically resisted calls to leave office, saying on Twitter that he remained committed to serving the people of his district.
But at a news conference, Representative Anthony D’Esposito, whose district neighbors Mr. Santos’s, said that Mr. Santos had so deeply lost the faith of voters on Long Island that he did “not have the ability” to adequately serve in the House of Representatives.
Mr. D’Esposito, who joined the event via video from his office in Washington, added in a statement that he would not associate with Mr. Santos and would encourage “other representatives in the House of Representatives to join me in rejecting him.”
In the hours that followed, three other first-term Republican congressmen joined the push: Nick LaLota, who also represents parts of Long Island; Nick Langworthy, the state Republican chair whose district is in New York’s rural Southern Tier; and Brandon Williams, whose district covers an area near Syracuse.
The calls for Mr. Santos to step down were the sharpest denunciation yet of the congressman’s behavior from Republicans after reporting in The New York Times uncovered that Mr. Santos had made false claims about his educational and professional background and raised questions about his business, his financial disclosures and his campaign expenses.
The Nassau County party chairman, Joseph G. Cairo Jr., said that Mr. Santos, a first-term Republican, had lost the support of Republicans in his district, saying that Mr. Santos’s campaign was one of “deceit, lies, fabrication.”
“He’s disgraced the House of Representatives, and we do not consider him one of our congresspeople,” Mr. Cairo said at the news conference. “Today, on behalf of the Nassau County Republican Committee, I am calling for his immediate resignation.”
Leaders outlined a scenario in which Mr. Santos would be cut out of the day-to-day functioning of local government, barring him from local meetings and events. Constituents of his with requests would be referred to other representatives. While such moves would hamper Mr. Santos’s reach, they could also curtail basic constituent access and potentially hinder the government’s ability to address local needs.
In response, Mr. Santos said on Twitter that he was committed to serving his constituents, “not the party & politicians.” He added that he regretted hearing that Long Island officials would “refuse to work with my office to deliver results to keep our community safe and lower the cost of living.”
The unified outcry from Nassau County Republicans adds to the pressure facing Mr. Santos, who is currently the subject of inquiries by federal and local prosecutors over whether his financial dealings or lies on the campaign trail warrant criminal charges.
This week alone, Mr. Santos, 34, has been the subject of two formal ethics complaints. On Tuesday, two Democratic lawmakers filed a formal complaint asking the House’s bipartisan Committee on Ethics to investigate whether Mr. Santos ran afoul of the law when he filed his required financial disclosures late and without key details about his bank accounts and business.
A day earlier, a watchdog group, the Campaign Legal Center, called on the Federal Election Commission to investigate the congressman, accusing him of improperly using campaign funds for personal expenses, misrepresenting his spending and hiding the true sources of his campaign money.
Brazilian law enforcement officials have also said they intended to revive fraud charges against Mr. Santos tied to a 2008 incident involving a stolen checkbook, after the case was disclosed in The Times’s report.
The calls by Mr. D’Esposito, Mr. LaLota, Mr. Langworthy and Mr. Williams for Mr. Santos’s resignation could create a lane for other Republican House members to join them, though none did so immediately. The party holds a slim majority in the House, giving it little political incentive for pushing Mr. Santos to step down.
Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado, said he believed Mr. Santos’s actions were wrong. But he blamed Democrats for failing to raise concerns about Mr. Santos before his election and said there was little chance of removing him from Congress now.
“If the Democrats had done their research and exposed things, the voters would have had more information,” Mr. Buck said. “I think what he did was wrong, but whether he gets a committee assignment is up to Kevin,” he said, referring to Mr. McCarthy.
Mr. Santos’s committee assignment remained unclear on Wednesday, but he did not receive a spot he coveted on the House Committee on Financial Services. Mr. McCarthy had said earlier in the day that Mr. Santos would not get a spot on choice committees.
In the weeks after The Times’s story, Mr. McCarthy largely remained silent about the ongoing controversy, including reports by CNBC and The Washington Times that someone working with Mr. Santos’s campaign impersonated Mr. McCarthy’s chief of staff in order to raise money from donors. Mr. Santos supported Mr. McCarthy in his protracted fight to become speaker last week.
On Tuesday, the Republican majority leader, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, said that party leadership would handle questions over Mr. Santos “internally” but acknowledged that “there were concerns” he and others wanted addressed. Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the fourth-ranking House Republican, told a Spectrum News reporter that “this is going to play itself out.”
Were Mr. Santos’s seat to become vacant, a special election would be held to fill it. Mr. Cairo said it was too early to speculate whether his party had potential candidates in mind.
Mr. Cairo’s rebuke, in particular, represents a significant break between Mr. Santos and an organization that was integral in helping the congressman secure his seat, which covers a large swath of Nassau County and a much smaller section of northeast Queens.
Mr. Cairo was among roughly 30 local and federal Republicans who attended the news conference to castigate Mr. Santos and call for his resignation. The Nassau Republican Committee confirmed that it had refunded the more than $120,000 that funds associated with Mr. Santos had given to the county committee.
Mr. Santos’s claims about his Jewish ancestry and his family’s experience with the Holocaust, which multiple media organizations have since called into question, drew particular anguish. Once describing himself as a “proud American Jew,” Mr. Santos has since walked back that assertion, saying instead that he was “Jew-ish.”
The Nassau County executive, Bruce Blakeman, said that Mr. Santos’s claims were beyond the pale, particularly given the large population of Holocaust survivors and their descendants in Nassau County. “It is simply tragic and outrageous and disgusting,” he said.
Grace Ashford reported from Albany, N.Y. Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting from New York, and Stephanie Lai from Washington.
[Michael Gold is a reporter covering transit and politics in New York. @migold
Grace Ashford is a reporter on the Metro desk covering New York State politics and government from the Albany bureau. She previously worked on the Investigations team. @gr_ashford]