GOP Rep. Michael Guest, the chairman of the House Ethics Committee, told CNN that there would not be a recommendation on whether to expel Rep. George Santos from the House in the panel’s long-awaited report on his conduct.
The decision to avoid an explicit recommendation could make it harder to expel the New York Republican given that many GOP members remain on the fence and have waited for the ethics report to make a final decision. It would require 290 votes — or two-thirds of the full House — to expel Santos, whom sources say was presented with the report on Wednesday.
If expelled, Santos would only be the sixth House member in history to be removed from his seat by his own colleagues — and the first since James Traficant in 2002.
Plus expelling Santos could further narrow the GOP’s slim majority and give Democrats a prime pickup opportunity in a district Joe Biden carried in 2020. Santos told CNN this month that he would run for his seat again even if he’s expelled.
On Wednesday, Guest said that including a recommendation on a punishment would have extended the investigation into next year. But he said members can judge for themselves on whether the findings justify expulsion.
”There will not be a recommendation and — there will be a report as to what the findings of the investigation revealed,” Guest said. “But if we were to make, if the Ethics Committee were to make recommendations as to sanctions, it would have been a much longer process, carried out probably well into the next year, maybe even until the end of next year. And so we are not going to make any recommendation to the House – that will be up to each individual member.”
The report is expected to be released as soon as Thursday.
The freshman congressman has pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges, including allegations of fraud related to Covid-19 unemployment benefits, misusing campaign funds and lying about his personal finances on House disclosure reports. But he has faced withering criticism over the laundry list of his lies about his past.
Santos said he has “no concerns” about the report, as fellow Republicans weigh whether they will ultimately expel the controversial New Yorker.
“I will take whatever comes my way the way it comes. I have no concerns and I don’t have any premeditated feelings on this,” he told CNN when asked how concerned he was about the pending report.
Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, who has previously not supported a resolution to expel the New York Republican, said he is “absolutely” open to voting for his expulsion in the future.
“Yeah, depending on what the report says and what we find out,” he told CNN.
And Rep. Marc Molinaro, also a Republican from New York, said that he believes the final report from ethics will “confirm” the allegations against Santos and that he hopes members who have not supported Santos’ ouster will read it and change their minds.
“I think what’s important is the ethics report itself will confirm, I believe, what we already know,” he said. “George Santos is a fraud, he should not be a member of Congress. Members that didn’t share that opinion with members like me are going to have to take the time to reflect on that report and ultimately come to a conclusion.”
When asked if he’s concerned that there will be no explicit recommendation in the report, Molinaro brushed it off by saying he believes the information in the report will “affirm” the allegations against Santos.
“He acted in a criminal way. He is a fraud. He should not be a member of Congress. Members should reflect on that and then determine what they think is best. I’m hopeful they agree with members like me,” he said.
And a Texas Republican who has previously called for Santos’ ouster said he isn’t sure what will be in the report but that Santos has “a lot of issues.”
“Who knows what’s going to be on this report,” Rep. Tony Gonzales told CNN, adding: “It’s always a wildcard with him. I think the people of his district need representation and they’re not getting that right now. Clearly he has a lot of issues that he needs to go home and solve.”
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Melanie Zanona and Haley Talbot contributed to this report.
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