Editorial: The guilty & the presumed innocent: Do not expel George Santos from Congress

Last Thursday morning, Democratic New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman appeared in District of Columbia Superior Court before Magistrate Judge Dorsey Jones, who asked: “How do you plead, guilty or not guilty,” to the single misdemeanor count of falsely pulling a fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building a month ago.

“Guilty,” said Bowman in open court and he was sentenced to a $1,000 fine and to write an apology to the Capitol Police. The criminal conviction will be withdrawn in three months provided Bowman stays out of trouble, as we all expect. But for now, Bowman is a convicted criminal.

Last Thursday afternoon, another New York congressman, Republican Anthony D’Esposito, went to the House floor and introduced a privileged motion, a resolution of expulsion of fellow New York Republican Con(gress)man George Santos. We don’t have to detail here any of Santos’ many lies and sins and numerous federal felony charges he’s facing. Santos is a disgrace who dishonors the Congress.

Last Thursday night, on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, the new House speaker, Mike Johnson, said “George Santos is due due process. I think he’s appearing in a federal court tomorrow and we have to allow due process to play itself out. That’s what our system of justice is for. He’s not convicted, he’s charged. And so if we’re going to expel people from Congress just because they’re charged with a crime or accused, that’s a problem.”

The next day, Friday, Santos did appear in federal court on Long Island for his second arraignment, having pleaded not guilty at his first one in May on 13 counts. He again entered a plea of not guilty to 10 additional campaign finance fraud charges and a Sept. 9 trial date was set. We hope he’ll lose the June GOP primary before then.

Of these four members of Congress, only Santos is the scoundrel who should not be serving in the House. But Santos still remains an innocent man and only Bowman has been convicted of a crime. We’d had our differences with Bowman, but by no means should he be expelled (despite what Rep. Nicole Malliotakis said). And despite his odious presence, Santos should not be expelled either, until and unless he has been found at fault by a court of law or by the House Ethics Committee.

D’Esposito did a great service in helping to block the rise of Jim Jordan to the speaker’s chair, but he’s just wrong here about booting Santos now. And while we are no fans of Speaker Johnson for many reasons, the speaker is correct that Santos, or any other member, should not be removed absent a criminal conviction or an ethics committee ruling. There are many Santos complaints before the ethics committee, but the panel is waiting for the criminal prosecution, as must any expulsion.

Over in the Senate, another local guy, Jersey’s Bob (Gold Bullion ) Menendez, has been urged to quit by many of his Democratic colleagues. But Menendez won’t resign and he should not be ejected without a guilty finding.

So, the speaker should set aside D’Esposito’s expulsion resolution. Santos will be gone soon enough, either by the voters throwing him out or the courts throwing him in prison. Or both.