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George Santos tries last ditch strategy

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When a politician is collapsing under the weight of his own worsening scandals, the series of events that plays out is so often the same familiar pattern. First the politician insists the entire scandal is false and attacks the news outlet that first reported it. Then as other news outlets dive in and help confirm the allegations, the politician tries a new strategy. He confesses to the things that have been proven true, even while downplaying them, and denies all the other allegations that haven’t yet been proven true – in the faint hope that the media won’t be able to substantiate the rest of it.

Thus far we’ve seen George Santos follow this pattern pretty much to the letter. It’s not clear if he’s been listening to the kinds of crisis managers who usually handle this sort of thing, or if it’s just human nature to go through these response stages. In any case, Santos is now trying the next step along the line. According to ABC News, he’s promising not to seek reelection, in the hope that this will be enough to get the target off his back and allow him to finish out his one term.

Usually it’s pretty obvious why a scandalized political office holder tries to pull off this kind of compromise. No one wants to have to resign in disgrace, right? They want to finish out their term and then insist they left office on their own terms. And deep down they’re hoping that by the end of their term the heat will have died down, and maybe they can quietly seek reelection after all.

But with Santos, we may be seeing a different familiar pattern play out. When political office holders come to fear they’re going to be criminally indicted, they’ll often try to hold onto their office for as long as possible, in the hope of ultimately using their resignation as a bargaining chip in any plea deal negotiation. This may sound odd, but we’ve seen it play out with two different House Republicans in the past five years alone.

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So it’s entirely plausible that Santos is promising not to seek reelection in the hope that this will allow him to take office and remain in office through his indictment, so he can try to include his resignation as part of the plea deal he’ll inevitably have to cut. Of course this doesn’t mean Santos’ ploy will succeed.


The last two House Republicans who were facing indictment were merely on the hook for financial crimes. In contrast George Santos is an embarrassment and punchline across the board, so he may not be able to withstand the pressure and scrutiny of remaining in office long enough to use it in a plea deal.

At some point we’re going to have to rewrite the law so that office holders who are under criminal investigation like Santos don’t have a built-in incentive to remain in office until they’re indicted. Things shouldn’t work that way. That said, the longer Santos remains in the House, the more the Democrats will be able to use him as a weapon against every other House Republican. So if House Republicans don’t have the guts to expel Santos, then so be it.

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