WASHINGTON – The House Ethics Committee has informed the Justice Department that it will not delay its investigation into Rep. George Santos despite the threat of federal indictment against the New York Republican, a senior Republican on the panel confirmed to NBC News.
The Ethics Committee has long paused when the Justice Department opened an investigation into a member of Congress, as it did recently an investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz, R Fla. (The DOJ ended that investigation 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 within the panel’s jurisdiction while the Justice Department investigates criminal allegations against Santos.
“Certainly what we’re saying is that the criminal case that the DOJ wants to investigate — you’re welcome to continue that process. But ethical issues that deserve consideration here in the House Ethics Committee, we will,” Joyce told NBC News.
He argued that the panel was following its own precedent, saying the Gaetz case was referred to the DOJ because the allegations against the Florida congressman were all criminal and unethical.
Punchbowl news first reported that the committee had refused to delay its Santos investigation.
The House Ethics Committee announced in early March that it was opening an investigation to determine whether Santos “committed unlawful activities in connection with his 2022 congressional campaign, whether he failed to properly disclose required information related to statements filed with the House of Representatives, or whether he violated… violated federal conflicts of interest laws.” relating to his role with a corporation that provides trustee services and/or sexual misconduct toward a person seeking employment in his convention office.”
The investigation received a new focus this week after Democrats attempted to force a vote to expel Santos from the chamber following his impeachment. On Wednesday, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to refer the expulsion resolution to the Ethics Committee, giving the panel the responsibility to make a recommendation on whether the full panel should vote to remove him from office.
Two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives would have to vote to expel Santos in order to remove him.
Santos was arrested last week and charged in federal court with 13 counts, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making materially false statements to the House of Representatives. He has pleaded not guilty.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
When asked about a possible timeline for the committee’s Santos investigation, Joyce said, “Investigations take time,” noting that the process of gathering information from witnesses can be lengthy. He said he had “no idea” when the investigation might conclude.