George Santos announces he will not run for re-election after a damning Ethics Commission report

Republican Congressman George Santos announced he will not seek re-election to the House of Representatives next year after the release of a long-awaited Ethics Commission report on Thursday that concluded there was “substantial evidence” that the New York congressman was used campaign funds for personal purposes.

The report said Santos engaged in “knowing and willful violations” of financial information returns filed with the House of Representatives and “knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports with the Federal Election Commission.”

A committee statement accompanying the report said the group voted unanimously to accept the report. The committee said it had uncovered additional “uncharged and illegal conduct” by Santos that went beyond the charges already pending against him and would immediately refer those allegations to the Department of Justice for further investigation.

Santos announced in a statement that he would not seek re-election after the ethics report was released, although he remained defiant in the face of the allegations against him and condemned the investigation, calling it a “biased report.”

“This is a disgusting politicized stain that shows how low our federal government has sunk. All who participated in this gross miscarriage of justice should be ashamed of themselves,” Santos wrote of the report in a post on X. He went on to say, “However, I will NOT be seeking re-election for a second term in 2024 because and my family deserves more than being in the spotlight all the time.”

The release of the report is expected to fuel the ongoing push to oust Santos, an attempt that has failed in the past, despite gaining support from some Republicans. Impeachment is extremely rare and requires the high bar of a two-thirds majority in the House to succeed. Supporters of the push to oust Santos said they believe the release of the report will be enough to convince more lawmakers to support the effort.

The panel concluded that Santos “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House bid for his personal financial gain.”

The panel said the congressman’s conduct deserved “public condemnation, is beneath the dignity of the office and has brought serious discredit on the House.”

Santos declined a voluntary interview and also did not submit a written response to the ethics panel’s allegations.

But the panel decided not to issue a subpoena to Santos because of the likelihood that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right and that his testimony “would have little probative value given his admitted practice of embellishment.”

The panel also said Santos “has not fully cooperated” with the investigation.

The release of the report is the latest blow to the New York Republican, who has separately pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges, including allegations of fraud related to Covid-19 unemployment benefits, misappropriation of campaign funds and lying about his personal finances in the disclosure of the House reports. Santos remains defiant in the face of the mounting legal troubles he faces.

House Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest, R-Mississippi, will make a motion to expel Santos as early as Friday during a pro forma session, a source familiar with the matter told CNN, which will act on the matter when Congress returns from Thanksgiving holiday. The reasoning here is that having Guest make the motion would be seen as less political and give other members more cover to support him, according to sources involved in the planning.

Although the committee did not include a disciplinary recommendation in its report because that would have taken longer, the fact that the chairman is making the proposal will send a strong signal to the rest of the Republican conference — and is a sign that the shutdown effort may succeed this time. .

Two other members of the ethics commission also spoke in support of Santos’ expulsion Thursday morning.

Congresswoman Susan Wild, the top Democrat in the group, has voted in favor of previous expulsion efforts, but says she is no longer required to remain neutral now that their investigative work is complete.

And Congressman Andrew Garbarino, a New York Republican and member of a committee that also delayed the shutdown until now, also says he will now support it.

“There is considerable evidence that he used his position for personal gain. He does not deserve public office,” Garbarino said in a statement.

In early November, a Republican-led effort to impeach Santos failed in the House of Representatives. A number of lawmakers have expressed concern over the prospect of expelling a member facing an ongoing legal battle and lack of criminal convictions. Before the vote, Santos defended his right to the “presumption of innocence.”

In May, the House of Representatives voted to refer a Democratic-led resolution to expel Santos to the Ethics Committee, a move that allowed Republicans to avoid directly intervening in the contentious expulsion issue.

Santos has long faced calls to resign from both Republicans and Democrats because of his legal troubles, as well as an extensive and well-documented record of fabrications and lies about his resume and biography. Those calls are likely to grow louder after the report.

In an interview with CNN’s Manu Raju earlier this month, Santos acknowledged mistakes in his handling of key issues outlined in the criminal charges against him, despite a vigorous defense. He blamed “stupidity” and “insecurity” for his far-reaching fabrications, but also played down the significance of those fabrications and claimed that his constituents did not vote for him based on his biography.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Fredreka Schouten and Haley Talbot contributed to this report.

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