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House Debating Whether To Expel GOP Rep. Santos. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired November 30, 2023 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. ANTHONY D'ESPOSITO (D-NY): Santos induced New York voters and donors throughout the nation to support him by fraudulently creating an entire new person that donors and voters would support. Santos did this intentionally, figuring the uneducated, underemployed and person of simple means he actually is, could not earn the support of voters and donors.
The facts of George Santos's fraud are not in dispute. George Santos is not the person he offered to voters. He didn't work where he said he did. He didn't go to school where he said he did. He's far from rich. He isn't Jewish, and his mother was not in the South Tower during 911. So the argument that New Yorkers voted George Santos in ...
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: We've been listening to George Santos debate on the House floor over the expulsion of Republican Congressman George Santos. Some really heated back and forth. Questions about that House Ethics Committee report. Surprisingly, some congressman on the Republican side -- again, Republicans are in control of the committee that put this report together -- saying that it's bogus, that it stinks of politics, really surprising to see some of this.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Yes, I don't know that all of them are standing exactly by him so much as disagreeing with the process, which may be a really important thing to note. But you just heard it there as well, a Democratic congressman laying out some of these egregious lies that have been told by George Santos.
Yes, we got to sneak in a quick break. We're going to keep an eye on this and bring you the very latest from Capitol Hill.
KEILAR: All right. Congressman Matt Gaetz speaking in opposition to the expulsion resolution against George Santos. Let's listen.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): ... pled guilty to a number of those crimes and continued to serve in Congress. He was in Congress for like an additional pay period after having pled guilty to the very same things that were that -- that Mister Santos has been indicted for. And so, I think it's -- it's persuasive to me that Mr. Higgins and Mr. Nells, two law enforcement officials, with Sterling reputation, are here not necessarily to defend Mr. Santos, but to defend this precedent in this due process that is being shattered.
And I was struck when the author of this resolution said the quiet part out loud. He didn't try to shoehorn the expulsion of George Santos into some existing construct or precedent, he said yep, we're making a whole new precedent. We're making whole new rules right now. But he defends that by saying that the new rules are better, that it's a higher standard. So, we should just throw away everything that's happened from the first Congress to the 118th, because the new precedent is more robust. The problem is, it's a lower standard for due process. Without merit.
Mr. Speaker, whatever Mr. Santos did with Botox or Only Fans is far less concerning to me than the indictment against Senator Menendez, who's holding gold bars inscribed with Arabic on them from Egypt while he is still getting classified briefings today. But he's not getting thrown out of the Senate. He's getting classified briefings under indictment for bribery. But what, what cause -- cause Santos was buying Botox and Only Fans, we got to throw him out.
If George Santos is convicted, he ought to be expelled. But until then, it is an incredibly dangerous thing for people in Washington, DC, to substitute their judgment for the judgment of voters. Winston Churchill said that, you know, in -- in a -- in a democracy, people get the government that they deserve. Well, the people of Mr. Santos's district elected him. And like this is not some district in rural Mississippi with like one newspaper. This is New York City. And George Santos rolls in there, wins.
And you know what? It's 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's no requirement of any conviction. There is a departure from the precedent from the Duncan Hunter matter and many others. And I fear what that may indicate lies ahead for the future of due process in the House of Representatives. I yield back.
CHAIR: Gentleman reserves. gentleman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I yield one minute to Mr. Garcia.
CHAIR: The gentleman is recognized.
REP. ROBERT GARCIA (D-CA): Mr. Speaker, truth and justice are crucial components of a healthy and strong democracy. It speaks the public trust we hold and the dignity of this institute. And as a freshman member of Congress, I take the oath very seriously. I love this country deeply. We should all have intentions to defend it. That's why I arrived today to defend the integrity of the House and to support the expulsion of Representative Santos.
I wish no personal harm to the representative from New York and I imagine it's been a difficult moment for him and for the institution. But I believe strongly that his actions and he must be held accountable for them as well as his lies. He fabricated qualifications, his background, lied to the FEC and unemployment fraud. That's why he's under a serious 23 count indictment.
The bipartisan report is out. It's damning. It's convinced all members to vote for this expulsion. People want better from Congress.
They want good and ethical government and to deserve the truth. I once again asked, represented from New York, to resign and save of himself and the country from this vote. And if not, I encourage a yes vote and to restore integrity to the body and to expel Representative Santos. I yield back.
CHAIR: Gentlemen California yields. Gentleman from New York.
D'ESPOSITO: I reserve.
CHAIR: Gentleman reserves. gentleman from New York is recognized, Mr. Santos.
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Thank you, Mr. Chair. You know, I hear a lot of the line I encourage Representative Santos to resign. Do the right thing, which is resign. What I hear is people don't want to take this vote. I'm just here. I'm willing to take the vote. Take the vote, guys. I'm OK with it. This is your time. This is what they've all built up to all year.
The most damning feature of this farce is the total perversion of the priorities of this body and this conference who ran on the commitment to America, yes, witch hunting. George Santos is great right there. I remember that on the top line of the commitment to America.
This conference has failed to pass four different appropriations bills, Mr. Speaker. It had rules fell on the floor. We had Members weaponizing the Rules Committee because it didn't do what they wanted. Our borders are wide open. It's no man's land being run by NGO's. And yet this Congress has now taken three measures and the insurmountable amount of time that goes behind them to expel a member duly elected by the people of the Third District of New York.
You see, I didn't think that my tenure in Congress would be this way, Mr. Speaker. I came here to do work. I came here to pass and work on conservative legislation. I have a stellar conservative record that I am proud of. The work I've done in this body, I am proud of. The votes I've taken in this body, I am proud of. Every vote that I've taken that might have been against leadership, I stand by those votes. Not because I disrespect leadership, but because I want a more conservative agenda for our country.
Now I can't say the same thing about some of my colleagues, especially the ones most adamant to remove me. Almost as if we remove him, there's no comparison. It's that much simpler. They can go home and say they're conservative. They don't really -- they won't know what a real conservative will look like on Long Island. That's just the reality. The votes are there. Now let's talk about the fact of due process that everybody seems to
say that I have taken and I've received. You know, it's no secret in this body that obviously I have an ongoing process with the DOJ. I was given a deadline, an unrealistic deadline to testify before the committee the same day that I had to go to court. And they gave us a hardliner, yes or no answer. They wouldn't settle for anything else. That was the deadline. I could not surpass that date. Which means it was either I go to New York City to adhere to my DOJ case or I go to the Ethics Committee. No disrespect to the committee.
I've incurred over $200,000 of legal fees that have been predominantly paid for. So, to suggest that I have not complied with them is yet another lie. They have received every document they've asked and documents we did not have, we have told them, we don't have them. We don't have access to what you're asking for. And they persisted and insisted in inventing documents, communication between myself and people that did not exist. Thus communication, and we inform them. That this was all on the record.
But I rise and I question again to the chairman. Will he set the record straight that his expulsion resolution contradicts the findings of his report? Which one is it? Am I guilty of a sexual harassment claim, or am I not? The report says I'm not. His filing on this expulsion resolution says I am. That is a very serious allegation, one that I sought to see the end of.
Where the House the - the Congressional -- the Office of Congressional Ethics -- pardon me -- sent a referral to the Investigative subcommittee saying that they did not suggest further investigation. Sent a referral to the Investigative subcommittee committee saying that they did not suggest further investigation into the matter because it lacked credibility. Yet it sits on their expulsion resolution. I call that hypocrisy more lying, more swamp behavior from this body. The same reason that Americans have no trust in this body. Because unfortunately, far too often, too many of our colleagues here will speak from both sides of their mouths without regard to who it might hurt. As it is said, people in this town will hurt people a whole lot, so they can benefit just a little bit. With that I reserve.
CHAIR: The gentleman reserves. Gentleman from New York.
KEILAR: All right. George Santos. This is the question is three times a charm when it comes to trying to expel a member of Congress who has catfish voters and they're trying to expel for misusing campaign funds or is being a reliable Republican vote going to save him? This is the debate that is before us now. We will pick this back up after a quick break.
SANCHEZ: Let's pick up where we left off with George Santos defending himself, potentially facing a an expulsion from the House of Representatives. Here's the congressman from New York.
SANTOS: I have done the best I can to serve in this body and to deliver the best I can in my campaign promises to vote as a conservative voice in this body. I stand by that. And with that, I'd like to yield as much time as my colleague may consume. The gentleman from Louisiana, Mr. Higgins.
CHAIR: Gentleman from Louisiana is recognized.
REP. CLAY HIGGINS (R-LA): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What I ask of my colleagues, again very respectfully on both sides of the aisle, is to just step back from this moment and reflect upon the sacred right of the American people to determine their representation in our representative Republic.
This is not a right that has been enumerated for this Congress. The American people run this thing. I believe the people of the third district of New York are quite capable of removing Representative Santos if they choose to do so.
In the history of our nation, we have never done what we're poised to do. Since the Civil War two members of Congress have been removed by expulsion, both having been convicted of federal crimes. The people of these United States own the sacred right to remove their representative. This is reflective of our oath, ladies and gentlemen. My -- and I say this sincerely, my beloved colleagues, step back from this egregious act that you've threatened.
Reflect upon the American people that we serve. The oath that we've sworn. And allow the people of New York to cast their vote as they see fit. Mr. Speaker, I am prayerful.
SANCHEZ: A little bit of deja vu. We're hearing Clay Higgins, the congressman from Louisiana, once more at the podium defending New York Congressman George Santos facing a potential vote of expulsion. He's really just repeating himself at this point, filling the 30 minutes that they have for debate.
KEILAR: That's right because he was allotted 30 minutes. He has to fill that. On the other side of voting for the expulsion resolution will also fill that. So, raising questions of does he not have anyone else that he can go to besides that handful of people who have spoken for him?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Anytime you're in a situation like this and you have to go to someone like Matt Gaetz to be your character witness, you're not in a good situation. And look, this is so stark, and the difference is what we're hearing. We have people that support Santos who are frustrated with the process and the precedent this has set. Not addressing the issues here.
And D'Esposito, the congressman from New York who brought forth this expulsion request, he hit the nail on the head. He said look, you have 23 indictments in a court. You can see your day in court on those charges. But what we found as members of the Ethics Committee is indisputable. You no longer should serve in this body. And that's what they're making their decision on.
Look, what is the purpose of having an Ethics Committee if you're not going to expose this kind of behavior and show that there are consequences for these actions.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And one thing the Congressman did not do, Mr. Santos did not appear before the Ethics Committee. He declined their request to respond to any of this. And now he's taken to the House floor with just a couple of people behind him there.
You know, there are 435 members of the House. He'll get a lot of votes tomorrow, but clearly that's different than actually speaking out loud for him. But he could have responded on the Ethics Committee. He did not. He declined to.
So, look, I'm not sure there's much precedent for this. History would show that the only members who have been expelled have been convicted. But all he has done, the mother in the 9/11 burning building the on and on and on history does not provide much of a guide for this at this moment in modern history of social media. How he deceived all of his constituents.
STEWART: And one of the points that Gaetz made is that why is the members of Congress an Ethics Committee? Why is their judgment any better than the voters? Well, the voters didn't know all this. They didn't know he lies to get into office and then has misused campaign funds since then.
KEILAR: Yes, such a good point.
All right, "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper is going to start after a very quick break picking up as we continue to follow this, the discussion, the debate here over the expulsion resolution around George Santos.