House Ethics panel will continue George Santos investigation despite indictment

WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee has informed the Department of Justice that it will not defer its investigation into Rep. George Santos even though the New York Republican is facing a federal indictment, a top Republican on the panel confirmed to NBC News.

The Ethics Committee has a long history of stepping aside when the Justice Department picks up a probe into a member of Congress, as it did recently with an investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. (DOJ ended that probe this year without charging Gaetz).

Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, who is leading the Ethics Committee’s Santos investigation, said the panel will continue to investigate Santos for any ethics issues that fall under the panel’s jurisdiction, while the Department of Justice looks into criminal allegations against Santos.

“What we’re saying is, certainly the criminal case that DOJ wants to look at — feel free to continue that process. But ethical issues that deserve to be reviewed here in the House Ethics Committee is what we’re going to do,” Joyce told NBC News.

He argued that the panel is following its own precedent, saying the Gaetz case was referred to DOJ because the allegations against the Florida congressman were all criminal, rather than ethical.

Punchbowl News first reported that the committee had declined to defer its Santos investigation.

The House Ethics Committee announced in early March that it had opened an investigation into whether Santos “engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office.”

The investigation was given a new focus this week after Democrats tried to force a vote to expel Santos from the chamber, following his indictment. On Wednesday, House Republicans voted to refer the expulsion resolution to the Ethics Committee, putting the onus on the panel to recommend if the entire body should vote to remove him from office.

Two-thirds of the members of the House would need to vote to expel Santos to unseat him.

Santos was arrested and charged in federal court last week on 13 counts including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making materially false statements to the House. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Department of Justice declined to comment.

Asked about a potential timeline on the committee’s Santos probe, Joyce said, “Investigations take time,” noting that the process for getting information from witnesses can drag on. He said he has “no sense” of when the investigation could be concluded.

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