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George Santos refuses to resign, warns his expulsion from Congress would set a precedent

Representative George Santos faced reporters at the Capitol in Washington early Thursday.J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

A defiant Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) said Thursday that House members were “bullying” him as a vote on his expulsion from Congress loomed and warned that if a third effort to remove him were successful, it would lead to the downfall of several other lawmakers down the line.

At a news conference, Santos continued to insist he would never resign and railed against a House Ethics Committee report - which detailed a list of fraud and ethics violations allegations against him - as incomplete and “littered with hyperbole.”

“The reality of it is it’s all theater. It’s theater for the cameras, it’s theater for the microphones, it’s theater for the American people at the expense of the American people, because no real work’s getting done,” Santos said as he stood in front of the U.S. Capitol on a frigid morning, surrounded by scores of reporters and cameras.

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The House is scheduled to begin debate Thursday on a resolution to expel Santos from Congress following the release of the scathing Ethics Committee report. A vote is expected on Friday.

The New York Republican faces 23 federal charges, including fraud, money laundering, falsifying records and aggravated identity theft.

If the resolution passes, Santos would be only the sixth lawmaker in U.S. history to be expelled from the House and the first in more than 20 years. On Thursday, Santos noted he could be the first lawmaker expelled in modern times without having been convicted of a crime.

“If the House wants to start different precedent and expel me, that is going to be the undoing of a lot of members of this body,” Santos said. “Because this will haunt them in the future where mere allegations are sufficient to have members removed from office when duly elected by their people in their respective states and districts.”

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Santos said he planned to introduce a resolution to expel Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who pleaded guilty last month to pulling a false fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building.

In response, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) pointed out that the bipartisan Ethics Committee had already declined to investigate Bowman and decided no further action was necessary.

“So there’s no basis for George Santos, who’s a joke and an embarrassment and a serial fraudster to move forward with any resolution or to take him seriously at all,” Jeffries told reporters Thursday. “A question that we should all be asking is why is George Santos still around?”

Santos also mocked lawmakers for reportedly moving the vote on his expulsion from Thursday to Friday.

“Today is my second year wedding anniversary, and I’m going to enjoy it and try to forget the fact that it’s been one year from hell,” Santos said.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Wednesday expressed “real reservations” about the motion to expel Santos but said lawmakers would be free to “vote their conscience.”

“We’ve not whipped the vote, and we wouldn’t,” Johnson told reporters then. “I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this. I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”

The motion, introduced earlier this month by Ethics Committee chairman Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.), seeks to remove Santos from the House. On Tuesday night, another Republican, Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (N.Y.), motioned to move Guest’s resolution under privilege, meaning it would have to be considered within 48 hours. On Thursday, Santos criticized Guest for not even having the “fortitude” to file a privileged resolution himself.

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The Ethics Committee report, which was published on Nov. 16, accused Santos of - among other things - stealing money from his campaign, deceiving donors about how contributions would be used, creating fictitious loans and engaging in fraudulent business dealings. Santos, the report alleged, repeatedly used funds intended for his campaign for personal enrichment, including spa charges and paying down his own credit card debt.

“Representative Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit. He blatantly stole from his campaign. He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit,” the report stated.

According to the report, Santos was given an opportunity to submit to investigators a signed written statement responding to the allegations, but he did not do so. Santos also did not respond to the committee’s requests for documents, to voluntarily testify or to provide a statement under oath. Investigators noted that they thought any testimony from Santos “would have low evidentiary value given his admitted practice of embellishment.”

Santos on Thursday refused to address details in the report, claiming he would respond to it “line by line” at a later time. He also stood by his decision not to run for reelection, reminding a reporter that he was only 35 years old.

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“It doesn’t mean that it’s goodbye forever,” he said.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries spoke during his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday.Mariam Zuhaib/Associated Press

Mariana Alfaro contributed to this report.