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House Ethics Committee releases scathing report on Rep. George Santos

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now, a story of a complete about-face. New York's Republican Congressman George Santos announced on social media today he will not seek reelection. Of course, he's been plagued with scandal, and today the House Ethics Committee released a scathing report about him. The probe accuses the freshman congressman of committing a wide array of crimes, saying he spent campaign cash on personal items, including luxury purchases and Botox treatments. NPR's Brian Mann has the details. Hey, Brian.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Congressman Santos already faces 23 federal criminal charges. What did this House ethics investigation find that's new?

MANN: Well, they say their probe found an astonishing breadth of criminal activity throughout Santos' campaign - goes well beyond what we've seen in the Justice Department indictments. You mentioned some of the kind of crazy details of what House investigators found. They say George Santos spent donations from his supporters shopping at Sephora, allegedly taking luxury trips and paying for OnlyFans, which is kind of a soft-porn social media site. This report concluded - and I'm quoting here, Ari - "Despite his attempts to blame others for much of the misconduct, Representative Santos was a knowing and active participant in the wrongdoing."

SHAPIRO: OK, so the latest development is that he is not going to seek reelection, but is he even expected to survive politically until his term ends in January 2025?

MANN: Well, it remains to be seen. Right now it looks like he might be sticking around. On social media, Santos today blasted the ethics committee, which, remember, is chaired by a fellow Republican congressman, Michael Guest of Mississippi. Santos said - and I'm quoting here - "I am human. I have flaws, but I will not stand by as I am stoned by those who have flaws themselves." Republicans and Democrats are calling for Santos to resign immediately, but so far, he says he's not budging.

SHAPIRO: Could Congress oust him based on this report?

MANN: It's possible, but unlikely. He's already survived two votes to remove him from his seat. Some members say they'll try again, but there are concerns it would set a risky precedent to oust a House member who hasn't yet been convicted of any crimes, and Santos' federal trial on Long Island is a long way off. It's scheduled for September of next year.

SHAPIRO: Big picture - how did this all start, and what legal peril does he face?

MANN: Yeah, it really exploded in 2022. After he was elected, reporters started kicking the tires on all of his claims about his education, his sports career, his Jewish ancestry, his wealth. And most of that turned out to be fiction. He's since been charged, as you mentioned, with 23 federal crimes. The DOJ says a lot of campaign cash went to pay for extravagant personal expenses.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Brian Mann in New York City. Thanks for your reporting.

MANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.