George Santos said he won't seek reelection. NewsdayTV's Ken Buffa and White House correspondent Laura Figueroa Hernandez report. Credit: NewsdayTV

WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee on Thursday said it found “substantial evidence” that Rep. George Santos engaged in "unlawful conduct" and knowingly deceived campaign donors “for his own personal financial profit.”

Shortly after the panel's report was released, Santos tweeted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he would not be seeking reelection to a second term. He blasted the committee's report as a “politicized smear.”

The bipartisan committee said in a report it planned to immediately refer its findings to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Representative Santos’ conduct warrants public condemnation, is beneath the dignity of the office, and has brought severe discredit upon the House,” the report states.

The report accuses Santos of “blatantly” stealing campaign funds to pay for personal expenses such as $1,500 in Botox treatments, $6,000 in items from high-end fashion brand Ferragamo and $800 at a casino.

“He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit," the committee said.

Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) already is facing 23 federal criminal charges tied primarily to his 2022 campaign in the 3rd Congressional District. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, including wire fraud and identity theft.

The Ethics Committee launched an investigation into Santos in late February after he had admitted fabricating key parts of his life story on the campaign trail. Santos’ admissions came after reporting by The New York Times in December found he had lied about his credentials including his education, work experience and religious background.

Although the report details “unlawful conduct” by Santos, it stops short of issuing any disciplinary recommendations, including expulsion.

Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.), Ethics Committee chairman, plans to file an expulsion measure against Santos as early as Friday, his office told Fox News in a statement Thursday. The move would set up a vote during the week after Thanksgiving.

"Chairman Guest feels that the evidence uncovered in the Committee’s investigation is more than sufficient to warrant punishment, and that the most appropriate punishment is expulsion," his office said.

If the House expels Santos, a special election between candidates chosen by the two political parties will take place in January or February. Also, 18 candidates have filed to compete in the June primary to run for his seat in the Nov. 5, 2024, general election.

Santos already has survived two efforts to expel him. A push led by a group of House Democrats fizzled in May after failing to secure enough Republican votes, and a measure sponsored by Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park) failed on Nov. 1 to get the necessary two-thirds vote to oust Santos.

Many of the 182 House Republicans and 31 Democrats who voted against D'Esposito's expulsion measure cited concerns about due process given that Santos had not been convicted of his alleged crimes. But Thursday's report reignited bipartisan calls for his removal and several lawmakers who voted against his expulsion said they would change their votes.

D’Esposito vowed to try again for passage of an expulsion motion. He said Thursday the Ethics Committee report was "in alignment with my long held belief that this fraudster has no place serving in the People’s House."

Rep. Dan Goldman (D-Manhattan), who with Rep. Richie Torres (D-Bronx) filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee in January seeking an investigation into Santos' financial disclosures, said he planned to file an expulsion measure once lawmakers return from their Thanksgiving recess.

"Now that Republicans no longer have any fictional excuse to protect Santos in order to preserve their narrow majority, I hope they will join Democrats in expelling him from Congress immediately," Goldman said.

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport), a House Ethics Committee member who signed off on the report, said he would vote for a motion to expel Santos, calling him "undeserving of public office."

"There is significant evidence that he exploited his position for personal gain," Garbarino said in a statement.

Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville), who co-sponsored D'Esposito's expulsion measure, said Thursday: "Now, his election should be invalidated by the House using its Constitutional expulsion powers. Then, at an early-spring special election, my New York neighbors to the west will finally get an opportunity to participate in a valid election.”

Santos, in a lengthy social media post, said he would "not stand by as I am stoned by those who have flaws themselves."

Santos said he would "continue on my mission to serve my constituents up until I am allowed. I will however NOT be seeking re-election for a second term in 2024 as my family deserves better than to be under the gun from the press all the time."

Santos repeatedly has blamed his former campaign treasurer Nancy Marks of Shirley for allegations about his campaign finances. But the Ethics Committee report said Santos was not an "unknowing victim," noting that several campaign staffers raised concerns about Marks to him during the 2022 campaign. The report asserted Santos "was heavily involved in the day-to-day financial operations of his campaigns."

Marks pleaded guilty last month in federal court in Central Islip to conspiracy for allegedly providing false information about campaign donors as part of an effort to inflate Santos' donations to make him eligible for additional campaign dollars from Republican campaign groups.

Santos formed a company in Florida — RedStone Strategies LLC — that he used to collect campaign donations that were instead used for his personal expenses, according to the report. Santos transferred at least $200,000 from RedStone’s bank account to his personal bank account, which he used for purchases at the beauty product store Sephora and the luxury retailer Hermes, along with “smaller purchases” at OnlyFans, an adult website, according to the report.

The committee also found "substantial evidence" Santos never made all of the $800,000 in personal loans to his congressional campaigns in 2020 and 2022 that he reported to the FEC, despite reimbursement by the campaign for some of those loans.

A sexual harassment complaint filed with the committee in February by a man seeking employment in Santos' congressional office was dismissed, however. The Ethics Committee report said there "was not substantial reason to believe" the individual's assertions.

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