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House Republicans could be stuck with George Santos

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When the George Santos scandal first hit the fan, there was the question of whether his endless series of lies included any criminal acts. While being under criminal investigation (or even being indicted or convicted) does not automatically cause you to be ousted from Congress, the threat of potential indictment can change the approach that a politician takes – including when or whether to resign.

Let’s put it this way: if a political office holder gets caught in a scandal that’s simply embarrassing and life ruining, that person can try quickly resigning and disappearing from public view, in the hope that the media will lose interest and stop digging up any more dirt on the person. But if a political office holder fears being criminally indicted, that person may be more likely to try to remain in office for as long as possible. This can be either in the hope of eventually trading resignation in exchange for leniency, or under the false belief that remaining in office will somehow protect them from indictment.

On Wednesday it was reported that George Santos is now under criminal investigation on a federal and state level. Now NBC News is reporting that the federal criminal probe is related to “potential irregularities involving financial disclosures and loans he made to his campaign.” In other words, this is a money trail thing. If Santos is indeed guilty, then this is bad news for him, because a money trail is easy to follow and easy to prove to a jury. It also means we could be stuck with this guy for awhile.

Put yourself in George Santos’ shoes. You’re about to enter Congress. You’re also looking at likely being indicted for campaign finance crimes. You stand a real chance of ending up in prison. If you resign now before taking office, then you’re just a regular citizen trying to fend off indictment and conviction. But if you stay in office, you can keep politicizing the whole thing – and you force other House Republicans to keep siding with you. This won’t save you from indictment or conviction at all, but it could make for a smoother (and potentially more profitable) go of it in the meantime.

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Of course there’s a theoretical point in Santos’ downfall at which House Republicans will decide that keeping this guy’s seat is more trouble than it’s worth, and that they’d rather force him out in order to make the headlines go away, and take their chances in a special election. There’s a strong argument to be made that House Republicans have reached that threshold already. But with House Republican leaders like Kevin McCarthy being massively inept and in over their heads, the odds of them handling this in a savvy way are rather low.


So we could be stuck with George Santos for awhile. But keep in mind that while his presence in the House will be annoying for us, it’ll be nightmarish for House Republicans. They’re going to have to face media questions about this guy every day. It’ll make it a lot harder for them to push their lie-filled messaging and phony scandals. There will be an irony in that a liar like Santos will get in the way of House Republicans’ ability to spread their own lies.

And if Santos ends up indicted, House Republicans will have to cut bait in the end anyway. If things reach a point where he can’t show up to vote because he’s in a jail cell as a flight risk, then he’s not helping their fragile majority anyway. If they were smart they’d cut bait now and saddle up for a special election. But they’re just not that smart. House Republicans are going to keep riding Santos to the bottom, hoping the whole thing just magically goes away, which it won’t – and the longer they let this drag on, the worse their party’s odds will be of winning any special election for that seat.

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