Can George Santos run for Congress again after being expelled for serial lies and indictments?

Mr Santos claimed that he left office ‘arbitrarily’ – omitting the fact that he was ousted by his colleagues just three months ago

Kelly Rissman
Friday 08 March 2024 16:43 GMT
Stephen Colbert says George Santos ‘can’t just go back to the old job’

Serial liar and former congressman George Santos never ceases to amaze.

The New Yorker was expelled from the House in December following a series of scandals including a damning Ethics Committee report accusing him of committing “uncharged and unlawful conduct,” 23 criminal counts at the federal level, and a plethora of lies about his past.

His latest stunt then came on Thursday night when he turned up to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address and announced he would be running for Congress once again.

Even this announcement came with a characteristic series of surprises.

The former lawmaker-turned-Cameo star claimed that he left office “arbitrarily,” adding to his parade of lies that got him into trouble in the first place given an expulsion from Congress is far from arbitrary.

Mr Santos also announced that he would be switching districts. He previously represented New York’s third congressional district for less than one term after flipping his district red. In a February special election, his seat flipped back to blue when the district elected Democrat Tom Suozzi to replace him.

Now, the disgraced ex-Congressman says he will be taking on his former Republican colleague Nick LaLota, accusing him of having a “weak record as a Republican”.

Pushing these grand plans aside, one lingering question remains: can the criminally charged, expelled former lawmaker even be re-elected to Congress?

Legal battles

In May 2023 , the embattled lawmaker was arrested and charged with 13 federal criminal counts, including wire fraud, money laundering, and theft of public funds.

By October, a superseding indictment revealed 10 new federal charges against Mr Santos, increasing the total to 23 counts. He was also charged with making materially false statements to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), falsifying records submitted to obstruct the FEC, aggravated identity theft, and access device fraud.

The latter two charges relate to allegations that Mr Santos stole donors’ credit cards. In the case of one donor, Mr Santos is accused of trying to charge at least $44,800 to his alleged victim’s credit card without authorisation.

Mr Santos has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

His criminal trial is scheduled for September 2024.

Expulsion from Congress

One month after federal officials handed down the superseding indictment, the House Ethics Committee delivered a scathing report following its probe into the embattled congressman.

The committee said it had uncovered “substantial evidence” that Mr Santos broke federal laws, writing that Mr Santos “knowingly” caused his campaign to file false FEC reports and used campaign funds for personal purposes, including to pay for OnlyFans and Botox.

Although Mr Santos dismissed the report as a “disgusting politicized smear,” he also announced he would not be seeking re-election.

On the heels of the report the House voted to expel Mr Santos from Congress on 1 December – ousting him in a vote of 311 to 114.

He left the Capitol that day saying: “To hell with this place.”

Three months later, he seems to have changed his tune entirely.

Flood of falsehoods

Even before his slew of charges, Mr Santos’ reputation was in tatters as he became known for repeatedly spewing lies, with a string of his far-fetched stories being debunked.

Among the falsehoods, the disgraced former congressman alleged that he obtained degrees from NYU and Baruch College as well as a prep school in New York City. None of these schools have any record of him attending.

His work history also fell under scrutiny. He had claimed that before joining Congress he was employed by Goldman Sachs and Citigroup — both claims, he later admitted, were works of fiction. Mr Santos instead offered up that he worked for the banks through a third company, though he has still provided no evidence to support this claim either.

Mr Santos’ personal history is also rife with unsupported allegations. He said he had “lost” four of his employees at the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, that his grandparents fled the Holocaust, that he is Jewish — which he later clarified as meaning “Jew-ish” — and that his mother died in the 9/11 attacks — but also on 23 December 2016.

So can George Santos be re-elected despite his criminal charges and scandals?

The simple answer is yes.

The US Constitution states just three requirements for serving as a House Representative: that they must be at least 25 years old, that they have been a US citizen for at least seven years, and that they live in the state they represent.

Ticking all those boxes, it seems he can run again.

While Mr Santos is only the sixth lawmaker to have ever been expelled from the House of Representatives, he is not the first to refuse to bow out gracefully.

Before Mr Santos, the most recent Congress member to be expelled was James Traficant in 2002.

Unlike Mr Santos, however, the nine-term congressman was expelled months after he had been convicted for obstruction of justice, defrauding the government, bribery, tax evasion, and other charges.

Following his expulsion, Traficant, who served as a Democrat, ran from prison as an independent in the election that November. Ultimately, he lost.

After his release from prison in 2009, he launched another congressional bid but was again defeated.

Michael J Myers was also expelled in 1980 — marking the first House expulsion since the Civil War. Like Traficant, Myers was convicted months before facing the House’s expulsion vote. Still, he ran in the 1980 election and lost to an independent candidate, but he garnered more than a third of the vote.

So in terms of Mr Santos, the question appears to be not whether he is able to run for re-election, but whether Americans will vote him in office again.

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