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Laura Litvan and Steven T. Dennis

Santos’s Upbeat Facade Shows Cracks on Apology, Committee Exits

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 25: Rep. George Santos (R-NY) leaves a GOP caucus meeting on Capitol Hill on January 25, 2023 in Washington, DC. Following the caucus meeting House Republican Leadership held a news conference at the RNC headquarters to discuss new committees for the 118th Congress including investigating the FBI and origins of Covid-19. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) (Photographer: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

George Santos is better known for the lies he’s told rather than anything he’s actually done in Congress. Now the freshman Republican from New York is running out of road.

On Tuesday, a new poll showed that many of the people who voted for him now want him out. He also stood down from congressional committees he hasn’t even had a chance to serve on. By the evening, he had embarked on an apology tour to a sympathetic conservative outlet by blaming the media while pledging to have “learned his lesson.”

The question becomes whether the man who confounded the political establishment with serial fabrications that went unchecked is able to brazenly cling to office even as each day brings more bad news. 

“I can guarantee you that from now on, anything and everything is always going to be above board,” he told the OAN network. “It’s largely always been above board, I’m just going to go the extra step now to double-check, cross-reference everything.” 

Santos faces investigations by authorities in the US and Brazil, where he once lived, as well as complaints to the House Ethics Committee and the Federal Election Commission.

House Republicans aren’t clamoring to unseat him just yet but they are preparing the groundwork. 

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who needs every vote he can muster in the narrowly divided House, waited to get elected to say that Santos could be removed from office if the Ethics Committee determined that he had broken the law.

Santos is reading the room and making efforts to appease his colleagues. Santos had been placed on the House Small Business Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Fellow New York Republican Elise Stefanik, chair of the House GOP caucus, said Santos “voluntarily removed himself from committees as he goes through this process.” 

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, once a GOP gadfly and now a member of McCarthy’s inner circle, called the decision a “pretty bold move.” 

Representative George Santos, a Republican from New York, departs following a House Republican conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Santos, the embattled freshman representative from New York, could be removed from office if the chamber's Ethics Committee determined that he had broken the law, but not until then. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

In his own defense, Santos told reporters to “look out for the interview.” That showed up later in the day, on One America News, a far-right cable news channel.

“I put myself in this predicament,” he said, adding that if he could do it over again, he “wouldn’t have lied” about his education. 

In a direct appeal to voters’ sympathies, Santos referenced his personal rise from poverty to the House. 

“I come from a humble beginning, I’ve always said that. I grew up in abject poverty in Jackson Heights in Queens in New York City,” he told OAN. “People like me aren’t supposed to do big things in life, and when we do it disrupts the system.”

Roger Williams, the chair of the Small Business Committee, said Santos left the door open to returning to the committees “when there comes a point he is not an issue anymore.”

That looks unlikely any time soon. Santos has been under fire at home amid mounting scrutiny over his campaigns funds. 

Almost eight in 10 voters in his district, which covers northern Nassau County and parts of Queens, want him to resign, according to a Newsday/Sienna College poll conducted Jan. 23-26. Only 7% of his constituents view him favorably.

For two fellow freshmen House Republicans from New York, Nick LaLota and Anthony D’Esposito, the writing is on the wall for Santos.

“This is a classic case of someone quitting right before they were going to get fired,” they said. 

--With assistance from Emily Wilkins, Billy House, Gregory Korte and Laura Davison.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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