United States prosecutors have said they will open an investigation into Republican Representative-elect George Santos, who falsified key details of his life story during his bid to win election to Congress.
Authorities from Long Island in New York state, where Santos was elected, announced they will examine whether Santos crossed the line into criminal wrongdoing when he made false claims about his employment, education, finances and family history.
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“The numerous fabrications and inconsistencies associated with Congressman-elect Santos are nothing short of stunning,” said Nassau County District Attorney Anne T Donnelly, a Republican.
“The residents of Nassau County and other parts of the third district must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress,” she continued. “No one is above the law, and if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it.”
The 34-year-old Santos has faced calls to resign after media reports raised questions about a number of claims he made, including the assertion he is the descendent of Jewish relatives who fled persecution during World War II.
The embattled Congressman-elect said he has no intention of stepping down and downplayed the criticism.
“My sins here are embellishing my resume,” Santos said in an interview with the New York Post on Monday.
He is scheduled to be sworn in as a member of Congress next Tuesday when the Republican Party takes a smaller-than-expected majority in the US House of Representatives.
But Santos could still face investigations, including from the US Justice Department. His colleague from Long Island, Republican Representative-elect Nick Lalota, has called for a “full investigation” by the House Ethics Committee and, if necessary, law enforcement.
On Monday, Santos admitted to lying about receiving a college degree from Baruch College in New York. He also acknowledged that he never worked for the financial groups Goldman Sachs and Citibank, as he previously asserted.
In response to reporting that cast doubt on his claims of Jewish heritage, Santos told the New York Post: “I never claimed to be Jewish… I said I was ‘Jew-ish’.”
Santos, the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat as a non-incumbent, also alleged that he had worked at the same company as four victims of a 2016 mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, an attack that left 49 people dead.
— George Santos (@Santos4Congress) December 19, 2022
He has since changed some details of the story: He told the WABC radio station that a company he was starting was in the process of hiring the four people but that they were not yet employees.
With scrutiny growing, Santos’s finances are under the microscope as well. Despite recent issues with eviction and thousands of dollars in unpaid rent, Santos has depicted himself as having a substantial and quickly accumulated fortune, leading some news outlets to question its source.
Reporting by the New York Times also found records indicating that Santos was the subject of a criminal investigation in Brazil in 2008, where he faced allegations of using stolen checks to buy items at a clothing shop. Local prosecutors said the case was put aside because Santos never appeared in court.
In an interview on the conservative TV channel Fox News on Tuesday, Republican Tulsi Gabbard hammered Santos over his false claims.
“These are blatant lies,” said Gabbard. “My question is, do you have no shame?”