WASHINGTON—Republican George Santos is starting February in a weakened political position, battered by public pressure and growing legal scrutiny after he admitted to lying about parts of his personal and professional resume.
He’s facing intense criticism for campaign finance disclosures that have raised several red flags.
But perhaps the biggest shift in a month is Speaker Kevin McCarthy moving from strongly defending Santos as the voters’ choice to saying it was “appropriate” for the embattled freshman from New York to recuse himself from two House committees.
What Kevin McCarthy is saying about George Santos
“Santos stepping down is based upon Santos issues. I think it’s better that Santos is not on committees right now until he clears up these issues,” McCarthy told reporters Wednesday night.
When asked why it was good for Santos to step down weeks after being seated on committees, McCarthy said, “I had some new questions.”
The speaker didn’t describe his questions.
“I think going through ethics will answer some others,” McCarthy said. “I think until he goes through that, it would be better that he doesn’t serve on committees.”
George Santos controversy:Here’s a look at investigations of the House Republican
Ilhan Omar committee vote and Republican George Santos
Santos said this week part of his calculation for resigning from committees was to avoid being a distraction as House Republicans prepared to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from the Foreign Affairs committee.
GOP members ousted her from the committee Thursday, citing some of Omar’s past comments that were criticized by both parties as antisemitic.
She was criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for suggesting pro-Israel lobbyists were buying political favors – a comment for which she apologized.
But Omar and Democrats have said removing her – and Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell last week – is political payback for GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar being removed in the last Congress for incendiary comments and sharing posts that depicted violence against another representative. They had also been accusing Republicans of hypocrisy for seating Santos and removing Omar.
Committees are where bipartisan relationships are formed and where members can craft legislation that is important to their districts, according to Steve Israel, a former Democratic congressman from New York.
“One thing I learned in sixteen years in Congress is that most of the hard work is done in committees,” he said in a statement.
Israel, who served in the House from 2001 to 2017, is now a government and policy professor at Cornell University.
“We’re now paying George Santos not to do the hard work,” he said.
What we know:Rep. George Santos quits House committee seats amid uproar over lies
Santos news: FBI investigation, treasurer quits
The FBI is investigating a U.S. Navy veteran’s claims that Santos led a fundraising scheme, a development that was first reported by Politico.
Richard Osthoff told Politico two agents contacted him Wednesday to learn more about Santos starting a GoFundMe account to raise $3,000 for the veteran’s pit bull mix, Sapphire, and taking off with the money.
The GoFundMe probe is one of several issues facing Santos after a month of Congress, where reporters are investigating his biography and campaign finances.
On Tuesday, Santos campaign treasurer Nancy Marks filed her resignation with the Federal Election Commission.
A new treasurer, Andrew Olson, is listed on his most recent campaign filing.
The change also comes shortly after progressive magazine Mother Jones reported they could not confirm the identities of more than a dozen of Santos’ major campaign donors and the Miami Herald reported several expenditures on his campaign finance reports did not match vendors’ records in Florida.
These latest reports come as Santos is facing multiple legal inquires at the local and federal levels.
Joseph Murray, Santos’ personal attorney, told USA TODAY this week, “it would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation.”
The pressure campaign against Santos continues next when a caravan of his New York constituents will arrive by bus to the Capitol Tuesday to call on him to resign and deliver to McCarthy a petition of more than a thousand district residents calling for his removal.
A deeper look:Companies linked to embattled congressman George Santos draw scrutiny. What we know.
Candy Woodall is a Congress reporter for USA TODAY. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.
Story Credit: usatoday.com