January 17, 2023

Speaker Kevin McCarthy is still dodging questions about Republican Rep. George Santos and his many, many lies—but being McCarthy, he’s not dodging very effectively. “I never knew all about his resume or not, but I always had a few questions about it,” he told reporters on Monday. Somehow, the follow-up question was not “What were those questions” or “Why didn’t you ask those questions,” although the follow-up McCarthy did get, about a Santos staffer impersonating McCarthy’s chief of staff on calls with donors, was also a relevant one.

To that, McCarthy claimed, “You know, I didn’t know about that. It happened—I know they corrected it, but I was not notified about that until a later date.” Again, this raises more questions McCarthy needs to answer, like “How do you deal with not only not being able to believe a single word that comes out of the mouth of a member of your own conference, but not being able to trust that he won’t misrepresent you in private?” Although the answer is clear: The only thing McCarthy cares about trusting Santos to do is exist as a Republican in the House.

According to reports, Santos’ lies were kind of an open secret among Republicans. Santos’ campaign actually commissioned a background check of him, which he agreed to, and which turned up many (though definitely not all) of his lies. That meant that many Republican operatives and vendors learned that Santos had invented most of his biography (and raises more questions about how Democrats failed to uncover large chunks of it).

Well-connected supporters suspected him of lying and demanded to see his résumé,” the Times reported. “Another former campaign vendor warned a state party official about what he believed were questionable business practices. And the head of the main House Republican super PAC told some lawmakers and donors that he believed Mr. Santos’s story did not add up.”

An unnamed “senior GOP leadership aide” even told the New York Post that suspicions about Santos were “a running joke at a certain point.”

On Sunday, New York Democratic Reps. Daniel Goldman and Ritchie Torres sent a letter to McCarthy, House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, and Congressional Leadership Fund PAC head Dan Conston calling on them to “proactively and forthrightly cooperate” with investigations into Santos. 

”It is one thing for a candidate such as Mr. Santos to induce voters to support him based on a web of lies,” Goldman and Torres wrote. “But it is altogether something else if the top levels of Republican leadership knew about Mr. Santos’s lies during the campaign and chose to be complicit.”

That’s the thing. Reports suggest Republicans chose to be complicit. They are still choosing to be complicit, because all they care about is power, and Santos is delivering them more of that even with all the questions and even with the knowledge that he’s likely toast in 2024. Republicans will not ditch him unless and until he becomes more of a liability than he is an asset to the one thing they care about, and right now we’re seeing how far they’ll let that go.

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