Santos ought to be denied categorised information, Democrats inform McCarthy

Two Congressional Democrats on Wednesday called on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to limit Republican Rep. George Santos’ access to classified information, arguing that the scandal-plagued newcomer to the legislature “cannot be trusted” when it comes to matters confidential materials.

“It is clear that Congressman George Santos has betrayed public trust on various occasions,” said Rep. Joseph Morelle and Gregory Meeks, both from Santos’ own upstate New York, in a letter to McCarthy.

“His unhindered access to our nation’s secrets poses a significant risk to the national security of this country,” the Democrats wrote. “We urge you to act quickly to prevent George Santos from abusing his position and endangering our nation.”

Santos’ office did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the letter.

Just weeks after winning his congressional race in November’s midterm elections, Santos admitted to lying about key details of his personal life and professional career. He has apologized for “embellishing” his resume but denies committing any crimes.

But as Meeks and Morelle note in their letter, Santos is involved in local, state, federal and international investigations. They also referred, among other things, to recent reports of alleged links between Santos and people linked to a sanctioned Russian oligarch.

“The numerous worrying allegations about his conduct over the decades call into question his character and suggest that he cannot be trusted with confidential and classified information that could threaten the national security of the United States,” the Democrats wrote.

Senior GOP officials in New York have denounced Santos as a liar and a cheat, and a handful of his fellow Republicans in Congress have also called for his resignation. For his part, Santos has vowed to serve out his full two-year term, arguing that his district’s voters should be the ones who decide his political destiny.

McCarthy, who cites a slim majority in the House of Representatives that Santos’ departure could shrink even further, has repeated that line and refused to join his party’s vocal criticism of the new congressman.

“You know why I stand by him? Because his constituents voted for him,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday. The Republican leader said Santos will only be removed from the House if his ethics committee finds he broke the law.

A spokesman for McCarthy did not immediately comment on the Democrats’ letter.

The McCarthy-led GOP Steering Committee last week awarded Santos places on the Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Small Business Committee.

In Wednesday’s letter from Morelle and Meeks, McCarthy was asked to limit Santos’ ability to access classified material, “including preventing him from attending classified briefings and restricting his access to such information through his committee duties.”

Democrats seemed to acknowledge that Santos was assigned to lesser-known committees, but noted he could still potentially gain access to swathes of sensitive information.

“As it currently stands, members are not required to have security clearances or sign a non-disclosure agreement that does not grant them full access to classified information,” they wrote.

“Congressman George Santos has been assigned to committees whose jurisdiction may address only a portion of our country’s national security and foreign policy agenda, but that does not prevent or prevent him from requesting a secure briefing or classified documents on a wide variety of issues at any time,” she said said.

Santos “Unreliability could justify the intelligence community slowing down or limiting certain classified information it shares with Congress,” they told McCarthy in the letter.

They argued: “This could have profound implications for the ability of the legislature to carry out its legislative, oversight and investigative duties in relation to the executive agencies’ classified programmes.”

The Democrats’ letter comes amid a widening controversy over the removal of classified documents from safe places by high-profile politicians.

An attorney for Mike Pence announced Tuesday that classified documents were discovered at the former Vice President’s Indiana home. This news was taken as a relief to President Joe Biden, who has come under intense scrutiny after classified documents were found in his home and office, prompting the appointment of a special counsel to investigate.

Last summer, the FBI searched the Florida home of former President Donald Trump and removed thousands of pages of records, including numerous sets of classified documents, after the Justice Department said it found evidence obstructing an investigation.

Trump has announced he will run for president again in 2024, while Pence and Biden are widely speculated to be preparing to launch their own campaigns.

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