Jun 22, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Ethics Committee expands investigation into George Santos

Rep. George Santos. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

The House Ethics Committee said Thursday they are expanding their investigation into Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) after the Justice Department charged him with more than a dozen criminal counts.

Why it matters: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said the panel's findings will determine Santos' fate.

  • The panel is likely to wrap up its work long before a criminal trial plays out.

Driving the news: The committee's 10 members, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, voted to expand the scope of their already sprawling probe to look at allegations of unemployment insurance fraud, according to an unorthodox update from the panel.

  • The DOJ last month said Santos fraudulently received over $24,000 in unemployment insurance benefits in 2020 and 2021 despite "working and receiving a salary on a near-continuous basis" during that time.
  • Santos has pleaded not guilty to those and other charges of wire fraud, money laundering and lying to Congress.
  • "Most of the charges in the indictment were already in the jurisdiction of the" investigative subcommittee investigating Santos, the update said.

Zoom in: A pair of House Democrats filed a complaint against Santos to the committee in January.

  • Two months later the panel formally announced a probe into his campaign finances, financial disclosures and alleged violations of federal conflict of interest laws.
  • The panel has issued over 30 subpoenas and 40 voluntary requests for information during the probe, according to the update.
  • The update added said the panel is also "aware of the risks associated with dual investigations" and is "in communication with the Department of Justice to mitigate the potential risks while still meeting the Committee’s obligations to safeguard the integrity of the House."

The context: The committee often pauses investigations into members under criminal indictment.

  • But McCarthy said in January, "If ... we go through Ethics and he has broken the law, then we will remove him," putting considerable pressure on the panel to continue the process.
  • The House also voted last month to refer a measure to expel Santos from the House to the panel, with McCarthy calling for it to expedite its work.
  • A spokesperson for Santos' congressional office declined to comment on the matter.
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