Should he be expelled? Plus, a question about photojournalists in Gaza.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 13 minutes.

Congress released a damning report on George Santos. Should he be expelled? Plus, a reader asks about photojournalists in Gaza and whether they knew about the Hamas attack in advance.

Last chance.

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Quick hits.

  1. 43 hostages have now been released by Hamas, while Israel has released 100 prisoners. The majority of hostages and prisoners exchanged have been women and children, including a four-year-old American girl released by Hamas yesterday. (The releases) Separately, a Vermont man was arrested in the shooting of three students of Palestinian descent in what police are investigating as a hate crime. (The shooting
  2. A husband and wife died when they crashed into a border checkpoint in Niagara Falls. The crash caused an explosion, which initially set off reports of terrorism, but investigators are now looking into whether medical or mechanical issues caused the accident. (The crash)
  3. Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, was stabbed and seriously injured in a federal prison in Arizona. He is expected to survive. (The stabbing
  4. Americans spent $9.8 billion online on Friday, a new Black Friday record, and up 7.5% from last year. (The record
  5. Screen Actors Guild released a tentative contract that ended the actors’ strike. The contract, which has been controversial, must be ratified by the union's 160,000 members. (The deal

Today's topic.

The George Santos ethics probe. On November 17, House investigators released an ethics report that determined Rep. George Santos (R-NY) knowingly violated ethics guidelines, House rules, and criminal laws. The scathing report detailed alleged misconduct that included stealing money from his own campaign, creating fake loans, engaging in fraud, and deceiving donors about how their money would be used. Santos allegedly used some of his campaign funds for things like spa charges, paying his own credit card debt, and an account on the adult website OnlyFans. The committee voted unanimously to refer the report to the Justice Department for investigation.

In a joint statement, Reps. Michael Guest (R-MS) and Susan Wild (D-PA) said Santos's conduct "warrants public condemnation, is beneath the dignity of the office, and has brought severe discredit upon the House."

In the wake of the report, Santos said he would not seek reelection in 2024, reversing course from a previous pledge to run again.

Santos, who refused to give investigators a signed written statement responding to the allegations, testify voluntarily, or respond to the committee's request for documents, called the report a "politicized smear," railing against it in a lengthy post on X/Twitter. On Friday, Santos said he expects to be expelled from Congress before his term is up.

Investigators collected 170,000 pages of documents and testimony from dozens of witnesses. Here is an excerpt from the report:

“Representative Santos sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit. He blatantly stole from his campaign. He deceived donors into providing what they thought were contributions to his campaign but were in fact payments for his personal benefit...

He reported fictitious loans to his political committees to induce donors and party committees to make further contributions to his campaign — and then diverted more campaign money to himself as purported ‘repayments’ of those fictitious loans. He used his connections to high value donors and other political campaigns to obtain additional funds for himself through fraudulent or otherwise questionable business dealings.”

The report also raised questions about a Florida company called RedStone Strategies, which Santos used to raise money outside of campaign contribution limits. Santos transferred at least $200,000 to himself through RedStone and used that money to pay off credit card debt and  make private purchases, the report said. The committee also found errors and omissions in his financial reports, including $240,000 of missing cash moved between a New York PAC, a Florida LLC, and his personal bank account that has gone unaccounted for

Shortly after being elected, Santos came under fire after reporting broke that he had lied about or significantly embellished significant parts of his resume. He was charged in May with 13 counts, including defrauding his donors and using their money for personal benefit. In a superseding indictment in October, he was hit with 10 additional charges including identity theft. Santos's former treasurer has already pleaded guilty to filing false reports with the FEC and an aide to Santos has already pleaded guilty to a federal charge of fraud.

Earlier this month, the House voted on a bill to expel Santos, but the Ethics Committee released a letter before the vote saying their report would come out on November 17. The letter prompted some members of Congress to abstain or vote against the measure to expel Santos, but in light of the report many of those members now say they would vote in favor of expulsion. 

Today, we're going to take a look at some arguments from the right and left about Santos’s conduct, then my take.

What the left is saying.

  • The left says the Ethics Committee’s report confirms what we already knew. 
  • Some argue that Santos is a product of Trumpian politics that have taken hold of the GOP.
  • Others say Santos is little more than a farcical figure who will soon be expelled from the House.

In The New York Times, Mark Chiusano said “Santos is more dangerous than you know.”

“There is nothing new about aggressive bluster or even conspiratorial thinking in U.S. society… Mr. Santos is in one sense representative of the kinds of questionable takes that have flourished during the social media era, as influencers from Alex Jones to Mr. Trump spread misinformation, and the Covid-19 pandemic loosened America’s grip on reality,” Chiusano wrote. “But Mr. Santos brought his conspiracy theories and blatant lies into the halls of Congress, where they rubbed up against bills and the national agenda, as opposed to podcast scatting.

“Members of Congress have taken note. Some still focus on constituent work and try to rise in the ranks, but others in gerrymandered districts see social media clout as a simpler route to donations and re-election. Conspiracy theories and misinformation become ways to get notoriety and signal your fighting spirit,” Chiusano said. “Mr. Santos was not the cause of the House’s shamelessness but a symptom. And a warning.”

In CNN, Julian Zelizer argued “expelling Santos wouldn’t solve the problem.”

“While this seemingly interminable drama has at last come to a head, the hard truth here is that at this point, Santos’ exit hardly matters, at least when weighed against the reality of the party he’s leaving behind,” Zelizer said. “Now that Santos is on his way out, the most pressing concern is what, if anything, the nation can learn about improving the state of American politics. While it would be tempting to cheer the outcome as evidence that the system is working, and that the truth still has a place in national politics, that would be an overly optimistic interpretation of events.”

“Santos choosing not to run again does nothing to curtail or ameliorate a massive and toxic conservative media eco-system — from cable television to social media — that is virtually filter-less and allows all kind of lies, such as election denialism, to circulate at the speed of sound.,” Zelizer wrote. “Santos’s downfall should be a moment for Republicans to engage in some introspection, rather than celebration, to think about how they reached this point.”

In The Daily Beast, Jay Michaelson called Santos “the most comically dumb con man of all time.”

Santos is “a con man whose lies were so transparently ridiculous, whose grift was so glaringly obvious, that he will go down in history (and perhaps a Netflix limited series) as a clownish figure, at once rube and knave, who sowed the seeds of his exile through a series of ludicrous self-owns,” Michaelson said. “After every conclusive refutation of his lies, Santos responded with imitation MAGA rage, lashing out at the media for covering irrelevant stories (such as his own corruption) rather than what real Americans care about (such as the Biden Crime Family).”

“In a way, Santos was just one of many MAGA grifters, but he was just so bad at it. The baroque lies, the self-contradictory justifications, even the rage was studied, learned — and as fake as that Baruch College diploma. It was as if Santos had learned how to perform MAGA rage by binge-watching Tucker Carlson, but had never actually felt it,” Michaelson wrote. “That’s the thing with confidence men: you have to make the mark believe that you believe it… But Santos just couldn’t quite sell it.”

What the right is saying.

  • The right thinks Santos is likely corrupt but is wary of the precedent that expelling him would set. 
  • Some say the Ethics Committee’s report gives Republicans the necessary political cover to oust him. 
  • Others say Santos is just one of the many politicians who are guilty of corruption — he just happened to be caught. 

The Wall Street Journal editorial board said it would “break precedent” to expel Santos without a conviction.

“The House has expelled only two of its members since the Civil War, and both were first convicted on criminal charges. The violations the Ethics Committee has attached to Mr. Santos are on the same order as the bribery and fraud that ended the careers of Michael Myers in 1980 and Jim Traficant in 2002. Yet each was granted the privilege of a trial to vet the charges against them,” the board wrote. “Many of Mr. Santos’s critics suggest that he waived his presumption of innocence by refusing to defend himself before the Ethics Committee… but a political inquiry doesn’t have the same force [as a trial], even when the panel includes Members of both parties.

“Mr. Santos is headed for political defeat whether he’s convicted or not, and he’s clearly an embarrassment to the House. But Members might think twice about breaking with the precedent that Members be convicted before expulsion. In this hyperpartisan era, the temptation to do so will come up again, and perhaps when the evidence isn’t so voluminous. Even the notorious Mr. Santos deserves the judgment of a jury of his nonpolitical peers.”

In Hot Air, Jazz Shaw wrote “it’s looking more and more like” Santos will be expelled. 

“Of course, Santos is technically innocent of the federal charges he’s facing until he’s found guilty. But the House isn’t hindered by that fact. The Constitution gives the House the final say about any of its members, so they can legally remove anyone they want for any reason at all. It’s not a power that is often invoked, however,” Shaw said. “Only five members have been removed in that fashion in the history of the country. They tend to be nervous about employing such an extreme measure, particularly if it’s the majority removing someone from the minority..”

“One might argue that the proper way to handle Santos would be to make sure that the voters in his district were fully informed of the results of the investigation and just let them remove him when the next election comes around. But that could be a tough sell for the Speaker to pull off. Given the nature of at least some of the alleged crimes Santos engaged in, it’s highly unlikely that the court would have brought those charges unless they had the paper trail to back them up.”

In PJ Media, Ben Bartee said if Santos is removed from office, Congress should also expel “about 400 more” members.

“Don’t let the media lie to you (I know I’m preaching to the converted here): George Santos is by no means an outlier in Washington in terms of his congenital lying or psychopathy; they’re almost all congenital liars and psychopaths. It’s basically an essential job qualification for anyone who climbs the ladder that high in national politics,” Bartee wrote. “They almost all do insider trading. They almost all influence-peddle both in office and once they’re done with their ‘public service.’”

“The real reasons Santos is being removed from the club are several-fold: He is not a well-groomed product of the oligarchy… His corruption was largely of a small scale, in the service to himself, and petty in nature, rather than primarily in service to the donor class and grand in scale… He is embarrassing the ruling class with his low-stakes schemes and gimmicks and lifting the veil on the façade of respectability/legitimacy that it so desperately wants to retain.”

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, don't unsubscribe. Write in by replying to this email, or leave a comment.

  • There’s a good argument that Santos should not be expelled because it breaks with precedent.
  • There’s a worse argument that he shouldn’t because all of Congress is corrupt, anyway.
  • Both arguments are flawed — there’s plenty of evidence that Santos acted unethically, and Congress should expel him.

From my perspective there are only two real arguments not to expel Santos. One of them is a strong argument that I think has a few big flaws and the other is an emotional argument that I think is effectively baseless.

First, the strong one: Santos has yet to face a trial or jury. Until that happens, his guilt is technically an open question, and therefore any House push to expel him would be based solely on the Ethics Committee's report, which is not a criminal inquiry. One could make the argument (as some writers above did) that until such a criminal inquiry is conducted, the decision should be left to voters in 2024. Both members who were expelled since the Civil War were granted a trial.

I agree with the underlying premise that the extraordinary step of expulsion should be reserved for extraordinarily bad actions. But in this case, I think Santos's conduct meets the bar. The Ethics Committee report — a bipartisan inquiry — is not ambiguous about what it has found, and even half of Santos's purported conduct would still meet the bar of corruption that I think is worthy of being thrown out of Congress. Not only that, but Santos opted not to cooperate with the investigation, effectively forfeiting his due process he had an opportunity to act on. 

Furthermore, what is the point of an ethics committee at all if a report like this doesn't induce an expulsion? Santos's trial is set for next September. He could pretty easily delay any judgment from a courtroom for months or years — well past the 2024 election. He is already suggesting he won't run again. He has admitted to some of the conduct he was accused of. He is facing dozens of counts of federal charges. And right now, all of our tax dollars are paying his salary. Why should that stand? Why should Congress accept this behavior?

If there were ambiguity here — competing conclusions from the ethics report, or accusations of a partisan hit job, or glaring open questions — I would be all in favor of waiting for a trial. But the combination of the public reporting we have, the unambiguous ethics report, and the indictments already filed paint a pretty clear picture of Santos funneling money from his campaign to his personal expenses while simultaneously lying about his background. 

The weaker argument is that Santos is just one member of a Congress full of corrupt politicians and his behavior didn't do that much damage to the public as a whole, so we should focus on frying the bigger fish. Ben Bartee articulated this argument under "What the right is saying" above: "His corruption was largely of a small scale, in the service to himself, and petty in nature, rather than primarily in service to the donor class and grand in scale."

On first read this point is emotionally resonant. It feels good to be cynical about our dysfunctional and unpopular elected officials, and it's nice to flatten them all as corrupt and irredeemable. But it's also just totally false.

Yes, there is corruption in Congress. Yes, politicians regularly lie or bend the truth when campaigning. Yes, there is a donor class that buys access and legislation. But as someone who has interviewed and followed members of Congress and reported on the institution for the last decade, let me offer a thought that we largely ignore these days: There are 535 members of Congress. Most people can name about a dozen. The vast majority of members are genuinely decent people who have the job because they want to improve our country — and because their communities put them there. It’s actually not that easy to be a bad person, a corrupt politician, or a criminal and get elected to Congress. You often get caught, or get arrested, or make enough enemies that you don’t win elections. That’s why the corrupt, power-hungry, mean-spirited politicians get so much air time. They are still unusual. 

Santos's actions are by no means the norm. It is not by chance that a first-term Congressman who was unknown to the public three years ago is now on the homepage of every news outlet. We have so much evidence of his corruption precisely because his conduct is such an outlier. And because he is an outlier, it would be a great disservice to voters and to Congress if he didn't face harsh consequences for his actions.

To me, signaling indifference to voters would be the most unacceptable outcome. And that is precisely why members should take the extraordinary step of voting Santos out.

Your questions, answered.

Q: Did you see this report that Gazan photographers were with Hamas, some breaching the border, on 10/7? What is the ethical duty for these photographers? What about for the media orgs that employ them or pay them for their photos?

— Erez from Mountain Lakes, NJ

Tangle: Let me backup and start by answering the general question: What ethical duty do reporters have to share privileged information from a confidential source that could end up saving lives? The answer: Preventing deaths trumps confidentiality. Every time. Full stop. 

I honestly hope I never have to find out what it’s like to be in a situation where I have confidential information that threatens peoples’ lives — but the right thing to do would be to report it to proper authorities. And any news organization should both expect their reporters to practice those ethics or sever ties with reporters or photographers who do not.

In this case specifically, HonestReporting is suggesting four photojournalists who are payrolled by the AP and Reuters or have had their work bought by the New York Times and CNN had advanced knowledge of Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. Their proof is compelling on the surface: How is it that these photographers got pictures of surprise attacks that Israeli intelligence didn’t even know about? Foreknowledge is easy to suggest, but is a very, very tricky thing to prove. And I just don’t think this article alone convinces me of it.

First, HonestReporting is a nonprofit group whose entire mission is to monitor “anti-Israel bias” in the media. It has a track record as a strong media watchdog and has successfully prompted corrections from several major newspapers. But it is also ideologically driven. 

After the outlet implied these photojournalists were “part of the plan” and coordinated with terrorists, HonestReporting’s executive director Gil Hoffman came out and conceded they had no evidence for that allegation. Instead, he claimed the group was simply “raising questions” about the role the reporters played. “We don’t claim to be a news organization,” Hoffman, a former journalist at The Jerusalem Post, said. 

At the same time, Reuters, CNN, the Associated Press, and The New York Times have all strongly rejected any notion that their journalists — two of whom were filing their first photos ever with the news organizations — were aware of the attacks or coordinated with Hamas. One of the photojournalists named by HonestReporting (whose pictures were in The Times and the Associated Press) field photos 90 minutes after the attacks began. The Reuters journalist field photos 45 minutes after. There is still no evidence any were there before the attack began or knew of the attack beforehand. 

However, one thing HonestReporting did conclusively show is that at least one of the reporters was not impartial in his coverage. He seemed sympathetic toward Hamas and was photographed being kissed by Hamas leader Yehia Sinwar. CNN and AP announced they were cutting ties with that freelance reporter after the photo surfaced, which — obviously — I think is the right decision. 

So: Some serious questions raised, yes. One damning photo published, yes. But evidence they were there before the attack started or knew it was coming? Definitely not, and worth noting that HonestReporting has actually backed off of that allegation.

Want to have a question answered in the newsletter? You can reply to this email (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.

Under the radar.

20 months after the Federal Reserve began its fight against inflation, Wall Street is preparing for interest rate cuts. Interest-rate futures show that investors now believe there is a greater chance of the central bank cutting rates in the next four months than raising them. Any such cuts would indicate the Fed's belief it is executing a so-called "soft landing," in which it would have successfully raised interest rates to reduce inflation without causing a recession. Interestingly, investors appear to be betting on the rate cuts whether there is a recession or not, meaning many investors see the cuts coming under a broad array of economic outcomes. The Wall Street Journal has the story (paywall).


  • 1967. The year the U.S. House Committee on Ethics — originally called the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — was created. 
  • 11,000. The approximate number of people who've served in the U.S. House of Representatives. 
  • 5. The number of representatives that have been expelled from the U.S. House in its history. 
  • 3. Of those five, the number of representatives who were expelled for disloyalty to the Union for engaging with the Confederacy during the Civil War.
  • 2002. The year of the last expulsion from the U.S. House. James Traficant (D-OH) was expelled after being convicted in federal court on charges including bribery, conspiracy, and income tax evasion.
  • 31. The number of Democrats who voted against expelling Santos earlier this month. 
  • 15. The number of Democrats who voted “present” on the expulsion measure earlier this month. 
  • 23%. The percentage of Americans who said they had a “very” or “somewhat” favorable view of George Santos in a May 2023 survey. 
  • 53%. The percentage of Americans who said they had a “very” or “somewhat” unfavorable view of George Santos in that survey. 

The extras.

  • One year ago today we didn't have a newsletter, but we'd just published a pre-Thanksgiving note to readers.
  • The most clicked link in Wednesday's newsletter was our online merch store, where you can still get 15% off all orders and free domestic shipping on orders over $79 with code LEGACY15 until midnight tonight!
  • It won't matter: 568 Tangle readers responded to our poll asking what effect the recent Israel-Hamas ceasefire will have on the long-term peace process with 44% saying that it will be irrelevant. 39% said the effect will be somewhat positive, 6% said it will be somewhat negative, 4% said it will be strongly positive, and 3% said it will be strongly negative. "Somewhat hopeful that all parties can build on it for the short term. Not sure anything can help in the long term unless there is a real desire for peace," one respondent said. 
  • Nothing to do with politics: Neuropeptide receptors in worms suggest communication across distances, like neural WiFi.
  • Take the poll. Do you think the House should vote to expel George Santos? Let us know!

Have a nice day.

On January 3 this year, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field from cardiac arrest during an NFL game in Cincinnati. Because of the prompt and expert response of the 10 men and women who helped Hamlin on the field, in the operating room, and in his recovery at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Hamlin survived the ordeal and has been able to return to the NFL. Hamlin hasn’t forgotten. During his team's recent road trip to Cincinnati, Hamlin treated the 10 medical staffers who worked to save his life last January to dinner to thank them. But he also had more in store. "I surprised them with a scholarship named after each of them that will support youth in Cincy to chase their dreams," Hamlin said on Sunday. In their honor, Hamlin and his Chasing M's foundation will award $1,000 scholarships to 10 under-served young people in the Cincinnati area, aiming to help youths who aspire to attend private high schools or local trade schools and universities. "Damar continues to surprise and inspire us," UC Health said in response to the scholarship announcement. "We were honored to spend last night with him!" NPR has the story.

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.