Jeffries blasts Santos amid résumé scandal: ‘A complete and utter fraud’

The incoming leader of the House Democrats had some harsh words on Wednesday for George Santos, the newly elected Long Island Republican whose credibility has come under question following reports that large parts of his campaign biography might have been fabricated. 

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the incoming House minority leader, said Santos needs to come clean to voters and address the uncertainties surrounding his résumé. A failure to do so, Jeffries suggested, would make Santos unfit to serve in Congress.

“He appears to be a complete and utter fraud — his whole life story made up. And he’s going to have to answer that question: Did you perpetrate a fraud on the voters of the 3rd Congressional District in New York?” Jeffries told reporters in Washington. 

Santos was part of the red wave that hit New York during last month’s midterms, picking up the Nassau County seat being vacated by outgoing Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and helping Republicans win a slight majority in the next Congress. In the process, Santos made history, becoming the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat without the advantage of incumbency. 

Yet Santos has come under intense scrutiny in recent days following a New York Times investigation that raised questions about the accuracy of the life history he had boasted on the campaign trail. Santos had, at various times, told voters that he’d graduated Baruch College; worked with Citigroup and Goldman Sachs; and managed a small, family-based real estate empire. The Times could find evidence of none of those claims. 

In response, Santos’s attorney put out a short statement hammering the Times for smearing Santos’s “good name” with “defamatory allegations.” But the lawyer, Joseph Murray, did not address the substance of the questions raised by the Times report. And Santos has not responded on his own — a silence that was not overlooked by Jeffries, who quipped that Santos “appears to be starring in the sequel to ‘Catch Me If You Can.’”

“Right now, George Santos appears to be in the witness protection program. No one can find him,” said Jeffries, who represents parts of Brooklyn. “He’s hiding from legitimate questions that his constituents are asking about his education, about his so-called charity, about his work experience, about his criminal entanglements in Brazil, about every aspect, it appears, of his life.”

Dan Goldman, another New York Democrat who was newly elected to the House last month, said that if the Times report is right, then Santos might be guilty not only of misleading voters, but also federal crimes. He listed two possibilities — conspiracy to defraud the United States and filing false statements to the Federal Election Commission — and is pressing the FBI to investigate. 

“It is also imperative that Republican Party leaders address Santos’s conduct and publicly state whether they believe he is fit to join their caucus,” Goldman said. 

Republican leaders have so far been silent on the lingering questions surrounding Santos’s background. Jeffries sought to highlight that reticence on Wednesday. 

“It’s an open question to me as to whether this is the type of individual that the incoming majority should welcome to Congress,” he said. “That’s a question for Kevin McCarthy at this point in time.”

Yet the Times report has also brought new scrutiny on New York Democrats, who were already under fire for heavy losses in the midterms and are now being asked why their opposition research on Santos did not uncover the same résumé discrepancies the reporters did. 

Jeffries acknowledged the Democrats’ struggles in the Empire State, citing a “micro-political climate” affected by an unexpectedly strong showing from Rep. Lee Zeldin, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, in Nassau County and the broader Hudson Valley region. He said he’s awaiting the results of an internal review “to assess what happened, why it happened, and what can be done better.”

Rep. Suzan DelBene (Wash.), the incoming head of the Democrats’ campaign arm, also said it’s too early to know what problems plagued the party in New York in the midterms.

Tags Dan Goldman George Santos George Santos Hakeem Jeffries Hakeem Jeffries Suzan DelBene

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