Gaetz says Santos expulsion push will do ‘grave damage to this institution’

Gaetz says Santos expulsion push will do ‘grave damage to this institution’
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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) on Thursday argued expelling Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) would do “grave damage” to the institution of the House.

Pointing out that Santos would be the first lawmaker to be expelled before being convicted in a court of law, Gaetz said expelling the embattled lawmaker would “shatter” a precedent in Congress. Five lawmakers have been expelled in the history of Congress for either allegations of treason or criminal convictions.

Gaetz was one of three Republicans — along with Reps. Clay Higgins (R-La.) and Troy Nehls (R-Texas) — to take to the House floor to speak out against the expulsion push that has steadily gained steamed ahead of an expected vote Friday. Santos also spoke in his defense.

During the debate on the expulsion resolution, Gaetz argued New York voters chose Santos to serve as their representative and the issue is “between him and his voters, him and the justice system.”

“And the fact that the Ethics Committee has done this incredible violation of precedent will do grave damage to this institution for many years to come, because now there is no requirement of any conviction,” Gaetz continued.

The House will hold a third vote on Santos’s expulsion Friday, just weeks after the House Ethics Committee published a damning report detailing “substantial evidence” that the New York lawmaker committed serious crimes. Santos has repeatedly rejected the report, claiming it is “unprecedented” and that he was not afforded due process since he hasn’t been convicted.

Gaetz, pointing out he is not defending Santos as a person but rather the precedent, echoed Santos’s claim of violated due process.

“Let’s speak to due process. Mr. Santos hasn’t been convicted of anything, but we haven’t even moved to expel the people who have,” Gaetz said, later referencing Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge last month for pulling the fire alarm in a House office building before a key vote.

“So while the Ethics Committee is marching to throw George Santos out of Congress, they take no action to someone who pled guilty to a crime?” Gaetz added.

Santos faces 23 federal criminal charges, which he has denied. The accusations in the Ethics report range from inflating campaign finance reports, money laundering, wire fraud and using campaign contributions to cover personal purchases including Botox and OnlyFans, a subscription-based platform primarily used for adult content.

Higgins, reading aloud from a “dear colleagues” letter, also urged caution on moving forward with the expulsion push, arguing the lawmakers leading the push “are about to go too far.”

“I’ve heard your argument, I feel your passion, I understand your position, but you’re about to go too far,” Higgins said. “Just calm down and step back, which is what I advise my colleagues on both sides of the aisle today.”

Nehls said the House is in “uncharted waters.”

“Kicking out Mr. Santos is setting a very dangerous precedent,” Nehls said on the House floor. “Never before has Congress expelled a member based on indictments. Indictments require nothing more than probable cause, an indictment is not a conviction. So why today would we remove a member from this house based on an indictment? It’s never been done before. It shouldn’t happen today.”

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