WASHINGTON (WABC) – Representative George Santos told House Republicans during a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning that he would recuse himself from any committees.
Santos was recently appointed to two committees – the House Small Business Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
The news comes as he faces mounting controversy over his past false statements, scrutiny of his finances and investigations in the US and Brazil.
In an exclusive interview with One America News Network (OAN), Rep. Santos even expressed some remorse for his campaign lies, saying the only thing he would change was not lying about his education, but blamed the media for going behind him and his family.
“I don’t think there’s any excuse for lying, period,” Santos said. “There are no circumstances, especially when you’re legislating for the American people right now. So what I might do on the campaign trail doesn’t reflect what’s done in the office.”
Santos said he lied about his education because he felt it was the only way to get a seat in the House of Representatives.
“It was a bad decision. Bad judgment,” he said. “I felt the need to do it because I thought that without a degree I would be looked down upon and less than other people.”
Santos claimed he came from humble beginnings and defended his character.
“I know a lot of people want to create this narrative that I rigged my way into Congress, which is absolutely false,” he said. “I’ve worked hard, I’ve built a career through experience, knowledge and self-education.”
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On Tuesday, reporters asked whether he made the decision to leave the committees on his own, or whether the speaker of the House of Representatives asked him to.
“No one is telling me to do anything, I made a decision on my own that I think best represents the best interest of the voters,” Santos said.
On Tuesday morning, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy confirmed that George Santos said he would step down from the committees, but noted that if he fills the committee seats, it will be temporary.
“If I fill them in, it will be temporary, he’ll be able to get the committees back once he’s cleared,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy reiterated that the House Ethics Committee will have questions on many of these issues, and once he answers those questions, he can be put on the committees.
“I think it was the right decision until he can figure things out, he’s off the committees,” McCarthy said, adding that they discussed the issue during Monday’s meeting.
McCarthy did not say directly whether he encouraged him to recuse himself from his committee assignments, but told reporters, “I think we had a good discussion at the meeting,” and said Santos felt the decision was the best way forward.
New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, who supported the congressman’s Long Island campaign, attended the closed-door meeting.
“We just finished the conference call and George has voluntarily removed himself from the committees while this process is going on,” Stefanik said.
Santos released the following statement later Tuesday afternoon:
“Due to the continued focus on my personal financial and campaign investigations, I have submitted a request to Speaker McCarthy that I be suspended from committee duties pending my release. It was a decision I take very seriously. The 118th Congress should proceed without media fanfare. It is important that my primary focus is on serving the constituents of New York’s Third Congressional District and securing representation at the federal level without distraction. I want to personally thank Speaker McCarthy for meeting with me to discuss this matter and allowing me to take the time to properly clear my name before returning to my committees. To my constituents, I remain committed to serving the district and achieving results for both New York’s Third Congressional District and the American people.”
The move comes after a new Sienna Poll found that 78% of Santos’ constituency voters say he should resign.
New evidence emerged over the weekend about possible violations of federal law by so-called ghost donors — or the application of donations to people who don’t exist.
Eyewitness news delved into Santos’ filings with the Federal Election Commission and it was discovered that more than $18,000 had been attributed to fake donors.
Among them were Rafael Dasilva, the name of a famous Brazilian soccer player, and Steven Caruso, who are listed on West Fingerboard Road in Manhattan.
Such a street does not exist.
District 3 residents and Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan gathered outside Santos’ Queens district office to ask the FEC to join the investigation into potential ghost donors.
“Essentially, this brazen act of campaign finance fraud allowed him to take money from one source, and we don’t know where that source was, and circumvent campaign finance rules,” Lafazan said.
Reporter Shanti Lance met with one of the congressman’s real donors.
“I feel betrayed, my friends and a lot of people have a lot of time to campaign for him in the third district and it wouldn’t have happened without those people,” said donor David Zehr.
meanwhile, several men described to ABC News past relationships with the New York congressman – some of which allegedly took place when they were still teenagers – which they say turned toxic because of the stream of lies Santos told to try to manipulate and trap them.
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