House Democrats want to deny George Santos access to classified information

Washington — A pair of House Democrats on Wednesday called for Speaker Kevin McCarthy to block GOP Rep. George Santos of New York from having access to classified information, amid scrutiny from local, state and federal investigators over his background and campaign finances.

New York Reps. Gregory Meeks of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Joe Morelle told McCarthy that they have “serious concerns” about Santos and whether he should have access to confidential and classified materials as he faces questions about his personal and professional background, as well as his campaign finances.

Santos has admitted to fabricating parts of his professional background, and is under investigation from state and federal prosecutors, the latter of which are probing his finances and financial disclosures. He is also the target of complaints to the Federal Election Commission over his campaign spending and the House Ethics Committee regarding the filing of his financial disclosure reports.

“The numerous concerning allegations about his behavior over decades put his character into question, and suggest he cannot be trusted with confidential and classified information that could threaten the United States’ national security,” Meeks and Morelle wrote in a letter.

The two Democrats cited the multiple investigations into Santos, as well as allegations regarding his campaign donations, which they said “should further raise questions about the wisdom of allowing Representative Santos to access any form of classified information.” 

House GOP Meeting
GOP Rep. George Santos of New York leaves a meeting of the House Republican Conference at the Capitol Hill Club on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

One of Santos’ major supporters is Andrew Intrater, who, with his apparent domestic partner, donated a combined $34,500 to the New York Republican, CBS News found. Intrater is the cousin of Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch who was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2018 and again in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As part of their request for McCarthy to restrict Santos’ access to classified information, Meeks and Morelle said he should be prevented from attending classified briefings and have his access to sensitive materials through committee assignments limited. Santos has been seated on the House Small Business and Science, Space and Technology Committees.

“As Members of Congress, we all sign an oath to not disclose any classified information received in the course of our service with the House of Representatives,” the two Democrats said. ‘It is clear that Congressman George Santos has violated the public’s trust on various occasions and his unfettered access to our nation’s secrets presents a significant risk to the national security of this country. We urge you to act swiftly to prevent George Santos from abusing his position and endangering our nation.”

While some Republicans, including members of New York’s congressional delegation, have called on Santos to resign from Congress, he has rebuffed calls to step down. McCarthy has also declined to take any action against Santos, instead saying his future in Congress will be determined by the voters of his district.

“You know why I’m standing behind him? Because his constituents voted for him,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday. “I do not have the power, simply because I disagree with somebody on what they have said, that I remove them from elected office.”

But the speaker said that if the House Ethics Committee finds Santos broke the law, then the House would take steps to remove him from office.

“But it’s not my role, I believe in the rule of law,” he said. “A person is innocent until proven guilty.”

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