‘This is very unique’: Political, legal experts weigh in on controversy surrounding Congressman-elect George Santos

(Courtesy of Santos for NY)

As the controversy surrounding Congressman-elect George Santos continues to play out, legal and political experts discussed how they see things playing out for Santos in office and in court. While Santos is expected to take office Jan. 3, he is also facing investigations by multiple prosecutor’s offices.

After confirming the accusations made by the bombshell New York Times article as true, Santos has faced increasing calls for his resignation. However, despite admitting to lying about his educational and work histories throughout his campaign, Santos stated he had no intention of resigning.

Since then, at least three prosecutor’s offices have launched investigations into his financial dealings, as it is unknown how he was able to donate $700,000 to his own campaign after he was exposed to have lied about being wealthy.

According to Bob Bishop, of Pitta Bishop and Del Giorno LLC, if Santos stays true to his commitment not to resign, he believes Santos will be able to take office. The one other factor that he believes could prevent this is if Santos gets charged with a felony before Jan. 3. However, Bishop told QNS this would be highly unlikely, as the investigations have just begun and they usually take a long time to be conducted.

Bishop also told QNS that the House has no legal right to refuse swearing in Santos, as he meets all three qualifications needed to serve as a Representative. These qualifications are that the Congress member must reside in the state in which they were elected, be at least 25 years old and a United States citizen for at least seven years. Bishop also cited the ruling reached in the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. case that barred the House from blocking members who were elected from taking office. When the House refused to seat Powell in 1967, the Supreme Court ruled that he must be seated since he met the three qualifications.

“From my perspective, unless he’s charged with a felony before Jan. 3, I think he will be seated,” Bishop said. “He could be expelled by the House if he’s charged after Jan. 3, but almost nobody in the GOP has said he should step down. The reality is he will be taking office on Jan. 3. Whether or not he leaves office before the next election will be based on the act of law.”

According to political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, he doesn’t think enough House Republicans would be on board with expelling Santos, even if he is charged with a felony, because this would create the potential for them to lose a seat to the Democrats when they already have a slim majority. However, he does believe the fallout from this controversy could have a huge impact on the next election for the third Congressional district and those that surround it.

“Republicans can’t lose that seat,” Sheinkopf said. “Don’t expect [Kevin] McCarthy to call for his removal. I can’t think of anyone who falsified their entire identity, from top to bottom, being elected to public office. This is very unique, even in New York, where anything is possible.”

Sheinkopf reiterated that the feds will closely investigate the source of Santos’ funds. They’ll also look at whether or not he falsified documents when registering to campaign.

While both experts seem pessimistic about Santos getting kicked out of the House, he still faces numerous calls from his constituents to resign. Considering he has basically lied about his entire life, many within the district feel they can’t trust him.

Whether or not the experts will be proven right or wrong about how this may play out will likely be known by as early as the end of January.