WaPo has a solid rundown of the state of the Santos story after last night’s interview in The New York Post and another live interview Santos did last night. I want to give you a quick assessment of where this story likely goes next, what matters and what does not. On the endless list of fabrications in Santos’s resume and biography, his response has essentially been “LOL, whatever.” Yeah, I lied. Sorry. But who cares?
Narrowly speaking, he’s right. There’s no law that says you have to be honest with voters about your background or almost anything else. There’s no federal recall. The recourse to this behavior is either at the ballot box in two years or in the hands of his colleagues in the House who could expel him from the body. But expulsion is extremely rare. Only five members of the House have ever been expelled and three of those were tied to secession in 1861. In essence, it’s happened twice in U.S. history. It’s slightly more common for the House to refuse to seat a new member.
Absent getting shamed out of office for being an inveterate liar and weasel, the issue will come down to potential criminal conduct. So let’s run down the most likely points of vulnerability on that front.
1.There’s abundant evidence going back to Santos’s late teenage years that he has lived as an openly gay man. But in 2012 he married a woman from Brazil who came to the U.S. and appears to have become a citizen. Their divorce was finalized just before Santos declared his first candidacy in 2019. There’s little evidence they lived as a married couple during this time and he appears to have continued to date men during the entirety of the marriage. We don’t have proof that this was a sham marriage for the purposes of immigration fraud. But there’s substantial circumstantial evidence pointing to that conclusion. If that is the case, that is a serious felony carrying substantial fines and jail time.
2. During the two years between his first failed campaign in 2020 and his second successful one in 2022 Santos appears to have gone from being a relative pauper to worth many millions of dollars, and this on the basis of a private firm of which he is the sole owner and which seems to have little more than a paper existence. He could have gotten really lucky. As a wise man once said, he can’t help it if he’s lucky. But there are real questions about where that money came from. Given his established record of serial falsehoods he doesn’t merit any benefits of the doubt.
3. Campaign finance violations are rarely policed these days. But financial disclosure forms are the real deal. Willful and substantial false statements on these documents are a serious federal crime. They get prosecuted. Santos’s financial disclosures show vast and largely unexplained wealth. His campaign disclosures and his personal disclosure also appear to be inconsistent with each other on whether he contributed or loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign. Did he actually loan his campaign between $580,000 and $700,000 or was that a false claim? If it’s true, where did he get the money?
4. In 2008, at the age of 19, Santos was caught passing bad checks he had stolen from an elderly man under the care of his mother. The sums were comparatively small — perhaps a few hundreds or thousands of dollars. But Santos was charged with a crime and then absconded. The case remains open and can be recommenced if and when authorities in Rio de Janiero can get a hold of Santos. In the Post interview, Santos says flatly that this did not happen. This is a lie. There are court records confirming the charges and the victims have recently given interviews about the details of the crime. In his defense, Santos was only barely an adult at the time. Many young people do stupid things and go on to live productive lives. But it’s an open case. In theory at least he’s a fugitive from justice in Brazil.
5. Finally, is George Santos a citizen? He claims to have been born in Queens to immigrant parents. But his history of lies about virtually everything else makes it reasonable to ask for some proof of this claim. He has also sometimes referred to himself as an “immigrant” and former coworkers say he told them he was born in Brazil, not Queens. The best evidence that Santos is a citizen is that he appears to have participated in a sham marriage for the purposes of immigration fraud. (Not the best way to prove eligibility.) Given that Santos appears to be a pathological liar, and the constitutional requirement that he be a citizen to serve in the House, it’s reasonable to ask for some documentation to clear this up.