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Santos refuses to resign a day ahead of expected expulsion vote

<i>Drew Angerer/Getty Images</i><br/>
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

By Clare Foran, Haley Talbot and Lauren Fox, CNN

Embattled GOP Rep. George Santos continues his refusal to resign one day ahead of an expulsion vote, instead arguing that he is being bullied in the wake of a scathing ethics report on his conduct.

At a combative news conference outside the Capitol, Santos remained defiant on Thursday as he lashed out at other members of Congress. Pressed on why he won’t resign, Santos said, “because if I leave, they win. If I leave, the bullies take place. This is bullying.”

Santos previously announced that he would not seek reelection following the release of a damning report from the House Ethics Committee, though he has denounced the investigation.

Santos disputed the report’s contention that he did not meaningfully work with the investigation, saying, “I cooperated.”

“I provided them, every single document for the most part that they went off came from my counsel,” he said. He later said, “I am not unpacking the report. It is counterproductive for me to do so at this time. There will be a time that I will unpack it entirely and go line by line.”

Santos also said that he will introduce a resolution to expel Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York for pulling a fire alarm when there was not an emergency. Bowman has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for falsely triggering a fire alarm in a House office building.

“That’s consistency. Let’s hold our own accountable,” Santos said as he announced his plans.

Bowman responded with a statement saying, “This is just another meaningless stunt in his long history of cons, antics, and outright fraud.”

Santos has survived previous attempts to remove him from the House, but momentum is building for the latest effort after the release of a scathing report from the House Ethics Committee earlier this month, which concluded that he “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit.”

Santos said on Thursday that if the House expels him it will set a dangerous precedent, adding that he doesn’t know if the vote will succeed.

Expulsion is the most severe form of punishment for a lawmaker in the House and only five members have ever been expelled from the chamber. It requires a two-thirds majority vote to succeed – a high bar to clear.

Apart from the Ethics Committee investigation, Santos has also 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.

As Republicans weigh how to vote, many have expressed due process concerns over expulsion since Santos has yet to be convicted in a court of law. Others, however, have argued it is imperative to expel the congressman given the seriousness of the findings of the ethics investigation.

It’s not yet clear if there will be enough votes to expel Santos.

Later in the day on Thursday, Santos threatened to take down his congressional colleagues on his way out if he is expelled from the House.

Speaking to reporters, he indicated that if he is expelled, he will leave Congress will little fanfare on Friday, but vowed to “have fun on my way out,” promising to “name names” and blow the whistle on misbehaving members of Congress. He refused to preview any such infractions against “multiple members” but insisted it would be “enough to make your hair stand.”

“I will do the same thing members did to me and go to the Office of Congressional Ethics … and report everything that I think is relevant to the committee for them to look into,” he said.

Santos also said that he has “made peace” with the possibility that Friday will likely be his final day.

House Speaker Mike Johnson has said that he has “real reservations” about the move to expel the congressman, citing the precedent it could set.

Johnson’s comment that he has “reservations” won’t provide political cover for members to vote in favor of expulsion, which could make it harder for some Republicans to support such a move.

“We’ve not whipped the vote, and we wouldn’t,” Johnson said Wednesday morning. “I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this, I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

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