Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

A key member of the House Ethics Committee said Thursday that the panel is moving forward with an investigation into the conduct of Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., while largely steering clear of issues involved in the charges brought against him by federal prosecutors for alleged financial crimes.

Traditionally, the Ethics Committee has paused investigations into lawmakers charged with federal crimes so as not to interfere with the work of the Justice Department.

However, Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, chair of a special investigative subcommittee looking into allegations against Santos, said there are other matters the Ethics Committee can simultaneously pursue.

“Believe it or not, we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Joyce said during an interview Thursday morning with The Washington Post’s Paul Kane on “Washington Post Live.” “The ethics decisions can be bifurcated from those that are criminal. DOJ will take care of all those criminal matters, and those that are considered unethical behavior or conduct unbecoming a member of Congress are something that we still can entertain and we’ll continue to do.”

The Ethics Committee has been investigating Santos since March and is looking into numerous claims about the freshman congressman, including about his past business practices, campaign finance expenditures, and an allegation of sexual misconduct.

This month, federal prosecutors charged Santos with 13 financial crimes, including defrauding his donors, using their money for his benefit, and wrongfully claiming unemployment benefits. Santos faces seven counts of wire fraud, three of money laundering, one of theft of public funds, and two of lying to the House on financial forms in that case. He pleaded not guilty on May 10 to all of the charges and called the legal inquiries a “witch hunt.”


The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday about the activities of the House Ethics Committee.

Questions about the role of the Ethics Committee came to the fore Wednesday as the House voted, largely along party lines, to refer a Democratic-led resolution to expel Santos to the Ethics Committee.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., rebuffed the effort by Democrats to expel Santos, saying he deserved due process, which McCarthy argued the bipartisan committee could provide.

“I think these accusations are very serious,” McCarthy told reporters Wednesday, but “you have to have a process.” He also suggested the Ethics Committee could move more quickly than the federal court.

But Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif., who filed the resolution seeking Santos’s ouster, called that course of action a “cop-out” in part because Santos was already under investigation by the Ethics Committee.

“The Ethics Committee has had the George Santos matter for months, months,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said at a news conference Thursday, echoing that argument. “So what are you referring to the Ethics Committee? It’s already before the Ethics Committee. This was an effort to bury accountability for a serial fraudster. Why? Perhaps it’s because extreme MAGA Republicans need George Santos’s vote. He is critical to their ability to govern.”


Other Democrats argued that the referral would accomplish little, at least in the short term, because of the long-standing tradition of the Ethics Committee of pausing investigations while prosecutions take place.

On Thursday, Joyce declined to say exactly what conduct his subcommittee would continue to scrutinize.

“I wouldn’t get into the substance of any of the allegations because it’s not fair to the person who’s before you,” Joyce said. “And the one thing you want to do is maintain the dignity of the proceeding so that everyone deserves a fair shot.”

Joyce also declined to give a period for the subcommittee investigation, saying, “Justice has no period for stuff.”

In a March statement, the Ethics Committee said it was working to determine whether Santos, 34, may have “engaged in unlawful activity concerning his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office.”

On Wednesday, Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., the top Democrat on the investigative subcommittee, suggested to Punchbowl News that the panel could continue at least some of its work.

“We’re not required to yield to the Justice Department,” she said. “We have had discussions, so I’m not going to divulge the discussions. But I am going to be arguing that we should not be yielding to DOJ on any matter we have jurisdiction over.”

The Washington Post’s Mariana Alfaro contributed to this report.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story