Since congressman-elect George Santos’ web of lies began to unravel, coverage of the controversy has framed his fraudulent behavior as a political case of ethical misconduct.
The image painted has been one of a shady con man who fabricated his profile in pursuit of winning a seat in Congress. Yet the red flags surrounding Santos’ identity may present an even more nefarious threat to our democracy than just a rogue con artist congressman.
In addition to Mr. Santos’ fully concocted resume, his unearthed criminal record abroad, his trail of misleading home addresses, his political and financial ties to Russian oligarchy, his undisclosed and otherwise inexplicable origin of wealth that helped self-finance two campaigns for Congress, his insurrectionist history as a Capitol protester on Jan. 6 and his near parroting of Kremlin propaganda on the Ukraine, bear hallmark warning signs of a potential national security risk.
Until his background and finances can be fully vetted and cleared, political expediencies should not continue to overlook the fact that his profile now objectively meets intelligence criteria for a suspected foreign agent or colluder.
Lesser cases would prompt investigation into potential foreign operations or infiltration. Therefore a case involving a U.S. congressman-elect merits full scrutiny given the highly sensitive nature of government access that Santos would have as a sitting congressman.
Yet the burden of proof should not fall on the public or media to decipher whether we are dealing with a charlatan, a criminal, or a possible foreign espionage agent.
In either case, George Santos should not be allowed to take the Oath of Office for the House on Jan. 3. There is no other point in modern history that U.S. political leaders would have allowed such an exposed fraud, let alone one so precariously unvetted, to be seated in Congress where they might exploit it for personal gain and/or to the benefit of America’s adversaries.
Unfortunately in the current House landscape, GOP ambition to secure every last vote of their slim new majority for the upcoming speakership contest is insulating George Santos.
So he will be seated in Congress. We now find ourselves at a dangerous juncture where partisan and personal politicking is superseding what is an ethically unambiguous step of safety.
No one from either party believes Santos is fit to serve in Congress, where his mere presence will dilute the institution’s integrity while creating an unprecedented national security dilemma.
George Santos is a detriment to our democracy. There is no reasonable or legitimate excuse for his party to permit him near the Capitol he tried to subvert in 2021 – let alone, seat him within it as an alleged criminal, con artist and potential national security threat.
Brad Schwartz is a doctoral candidate of International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University