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Deserved or undeserved, some professions have a reputation for being less than honest. But whatever the field, the story of newly elected Republican U.S. Rep. George Santos is a case of unremitting deceit.
Santos undermined the integrity of his election by massively misrepresenting himself to voters and may have committed financial crimes.
He claimed he had jobs he didn’t have, graduated from schools he didn’t and lied about his family, his sexuality and his religion. He lied about employees dying in a mass shooting and even when his mother died.
As Gerard Kassar, chair of the Conservative Party of New York put it. “His entire life seems to be made up. Everything about him is fraudulent.”
With new details about Santos still emerging, one of his deceits is not only documented on video, but is also promulgated by all-too-many members of his political party — including Republican leaders of the House of Representatives.
And that’s the pervasive lie developed and spread by Donald Trump that the 2020 election was stolen.
On Jan. 5, 2021, Santos told a Washington, D.C., rally that he and Trump lost in 2020 because fake ballots were printed and snuck into the count. He then asked the crowd, “Who here is ready to overturn the election for Donald Trump?”
The next day the answer came as Trump supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol, forcing legislators into hiding and delaying the final, typically symbolic step of presidential elections — tallying state-certified electoral votes.
Because of the work of the Jan. 6 committee, we know Trump’s campaign staff told him over and over he lost the election fair and square.
We also know a lot about how Trump wanted to be awarded a second term with fraudulent electoral votes.
A key plotter for this attempted fraud was attorney John Eastman. And we know he knew better. As the committee report notes, “Despite recognizing prior to the 2020 election that the Vice President had no power to refuse to count certain electoral votes, Eastman nevertheless drafted memoranda two months later proposing that Pence could do exactly that on January 6th — refuse to count certified electoral votes from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”
False claims of voter fraud by Trump spawned the Jan. 6 insurrection, but it was Trump and his close allies and advisors who plotted multiple frauds to deliver him the presidency. This pattern of fraud still needs to be addressed.
So far, the weight of the legal system has fallen on the people who believed the lies spread by Trump, politicians and media outlets that uncritically repeated the falsities. Since Jan. 6, many have been found guilty of charges ranging from trespassing to seditious conspiracy. Now many have said that they feel ashamed for following Trump and what they did.
These individuals certainly should be held accountable, but so should those who committed any other crimes and whose words and actions stoked anger toward lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence. This rage drove violence at the Capitol.
Among the latter group are Trump and Eastman. In late March 2022, federal Judge David Carter found “it more likely than not” that these two men committed crimes by trying to stop the use of certified electoral votes. They engaged in “a coup in search of a legal theory,” Carter said.
As Carter explained, “Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history. The plan spurred violent attacks on the seat of our nation’s government, led to the deaths of several law enforcement officers, and deepened public distrust in our political process… If Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution.”
The damage of fabulist George Santos pales in comparison to the plans, actions and outcomes generated by the coup plotters led by Trump.
While the worst was avoided two years ago, the harm to our system continues. And, unlike disgraced President Richard Nixon, Trump has never expressed a smidgen of contrition and continues to spread corrosive lies. Let this new year bring accountability.