U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) is demanding that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) provide the public with a timeline of the Ethics Committee investigation into Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) after House Republicans sidestepped a resolution to expel the openly gay New York lawmaker.
In a letter sent to McCarthy on Thursday, Garcia quoted remarks by McCarthy earlier in the week expressing hope that the Ethics Committee would “move rapidly” in its investigation of Santos. In March, the committee agreed to look into alleged violations of campaign finance and conflict of interest laws, as well as an allegation of sexual misconduct by a prospective congressional aide who briefly worked in Santos’s D.C. office.
“Given your promises of swift action by the Ethics Committee, I hope that you will clarify the timeline by which we can expect the Ethics Committee to ‘move rapidly’ so that the House can take a transparent vote on whether Mr. Santos deserves to continue to serve as a member of this body,” Garcia, who introduced the resolution to expel Santos from the House earlier this week, wrote in the letter.
Garcia told reporters on Thursday that he plans to demand a public timeline of the investigation “every single day,” and will continue to pester McCarthy if he fails to provide that timeline or urge the Ethics Committee to expedite the investigation, reports The Hill.
The House previously voted along party lines, 221-204, to refer Garcia’s privileged resolution to the Ethics Committee, with Republicans voting in favor of the motion and Democrats against it. Seven Democrats, including all five Democrats on the House Ethics Committee, as well as Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.), voted present.
Garcia called the vote to refer the expulsion resolution to committee “cowardly” and warned that Democrats may bring forth future resolutions if the Ethics Committee doesn’t take disciplinary action against Santos.
Santos previously came under scrutiny after admitting to fabricating details of his work history, personal background, and financial status shortly after being elected to Congress in last year’s midterm elections. The news of his untruthfulness spurred subsequent investigations into his other dealings, resulting in investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office into his financial disclosures.
The Justice Department investigation led to Santos being indicted earlier this month on 13 charges of wire fraud, money laundering, stealing public funds, and lying on federal campaign finance disclosure forms.
Santos has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, and was released on a $500,000 bond. He was also forced to surrender his passport to prevent him from fleeing the country, as he allegedly fled Brazil after being charged with using stolen checks to purchase clothing from a high-end store n the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro in 2008.
Nearly a dozen House Republicans have called for Santos to resign from Congress, including several of his fellow New York Republicans. Only one member, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) has said he should be expelled.
By delaying the vote on the expulsion resolution, House Republicans give themselves some additional time before being forced to take an on-the-record vote against a fellow Republican, which could carry political ramifications, including potential blowback from their party’s most loyal voters.
It also — at least temporarily — insulates them from accusations of hypocrisy that could come if Republicans, particularly those from New York or representing “swing” districts, fail to expel Santos after having previously denounced him and called for his resignation.
McCarthy, who was elected to his position with Santos’s support, has previously defended Santos’s right to hold onto his seat, saying no action should be taken until the House Ethics Committee completes its investigation.
It remains unclear how long the investigation will take, although government watchdog groups have generally been critical of the slow pace the committee has adopted in the past when investigating other members of Congress.
Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.), one of the New York Republicans who has demanded Santos’s resignation and expulsion, but who voted with his party to refer the resolution to the Ethics Committee, says he expects the panel to finish its investigation in 60 days, after which Congress can choose to take action to discipline Santos if he is found to have engaged in wrongdoing.
According to Punchbowl News, the Justice Department privately requested that the Ethics Committee hold off on its probe of Santos while the criminal case against him moves forward, but the committee reportedly rejected the request. Santos is next expected to appear in court on the 13 charges in the Justice Department probe on June 30.
Santos, who has rejected demands that he resign, and has already announced plans to run for re-election in 2024, told The New York Times that he has been “100 percent compliant” with the Ethics Committee’s investigation, although he has not yet appeared in front of the panel. He said he was pleased that the expulsion resolution failed, arguing he is entitled to due process.
“I look forward to seeing the process play out, and if the Ethics Committee finds a reason to remove me, that is the process,” Santos said. “I look forward to continuing to defend myself. Again, innocent until proven guilty.”
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