Ethics panel peels back the curtain on George Santos probe

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Ethics panel peels back the curtain on George Santos probe

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It’s been nearly a week since a group of House Republicans from New York launched a new effort to expel one of their home-state colleagues: Rep. George Santos. For the GOP members behind the effort, the indicted congressman can no longer remain a member in good standing — his not guilty plea notwithstanding — so they’ve introduced a privileged resolution to force his ouster.

As the chamber prepares to deal with that measure, the House Ethics Committee peeled back the curtain a bit on its scrutiny of the scandal-plagued lawmaker. The Hill reported:

The Ethics Committee on Tuesday said it will “announce its next course of action” in its investigation into Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) on or before Nov. 17. … The announcement from the Ethics Committee, which has been investigating Santos for months, may influence how some lawmakers vote on the effort to expel Santos, which could hit the floor as soon as Wednesday.

In case this isn’t obvious, statements like these aren’t common. Ordinarily, the Ethics panel tells the public when an investigation begins and when it ends. In between those points, the committee generally maintains a tight lid on disclosures.

But in this instance, members of the Ethics Committee — which began its probe in the spring, and then expanded it after Santos’ criminal charges — decided to give their colleagues an update on their progress. They didn’t offer much in the way of details, effectively saying, “We’re going to make some news in a couple of weeks.”

For those hoping to expel Santos, this wasn’t exactly helpful. Members who remain on the fence about whether to kick the New York Republican out of Congress suddenly have an excuse: They can say they want to wait to learn more from the Ethics panel about the “next course of action” it has in mind.

They’ll have to decide relatively quickly: The House vote on the expulsion resolution could come as early as Wednesday (as in, today).

A Washington Post report added, if the resolution were to pass, Santos would be the first House member to be ousted “without having been convicted of a crime. Establishing such a precedent has prompted members of both parties to seriously weigh the consequences of expelling Santos, who has pleaded not guilty to 23 federal counts in New York that include fraud, money laundering, falsifying records and aggravated identity theft.”

As we’ve discussed, expelling sitting members of Congress isn’t easy — it requires a two-thirds majority of those in the chamber — and it’s only happened twice since the Civil War. In 1980, Democratic Rep. Michael Myers of Pennsylvania was expelled over his involvement with the Abscam scandal, and in 2002, Democratic Rep. Jim Traficant of Ohio was expelled after he was convicted on multiple corruption charges.

Will Santos join the small club? Watch this space.

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”

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