How Mike Johnson Helped George Santos Through His Controversial Campaign Finance Scandal

Relatively unknown House Speaker Mike Johnson and arguably too-known New York Rep. George Santos might live on opposite ends of the political visibility spectrum, but that didn't stop Johnson from offering Santos some crucial career advice over the 2023 Thanksgiving holiday. The politicians' tête-à-tête came after the House Ethics Committee found Santos in violation of federal criminal laws over the misuse of campaign funds.

While at the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport on the Monday after Thanksgiving, Johnson told The Hill he had taken time over the holiday to speak with Santos. "I've spoken to Congressman Santos at some length," Johnson said, "and talked with him about his options. But we'll have to see," referring to whether the House will attempt to expel Santos from Congress for the third time. 

Although Johnson's specific options weren't disclosed, Santos seems to think his options are limited. The controversial politician discussed the possibility of a third expulsion vote on X Spaces, saying: "I know I'm going to get expelled. I've done the math over and over, and it doesn't look really good" (via The Washington Post).

The House Ethics Committee's report detailed Santos' lavish spending

Rep. George Santos has developed a reputation for being dishonest after being caught in a myriad of lies, from his educational and professional background to alleged identity theft to financial fraud, per New York Magazine. And while the House's first two attempts to expel Santos fell short, the House Ethics Committee's damning report on the politician's financial misgivings promises it could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

The report revealed all the ways in which Santos improperly used political donations and campaign funds for his personal benefit, including paying off credit cards and other debts, shopping sprees at luxury designer stores like Hermès, Botox injections, smaller purchases like food and parking fees, and the online subscription site OnlyFans, which is often — but not exclusively — used for the creation and consumption of pornographic content.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson's deputy chief of communications, Raj Shah, released a statement following the report's publication, saying, "The Speaker has reviewed the report and its very troubling findings. Speaker Johnson encourages all involved to consider the best interests of the institution as this matter is addressed further," per The Hill.

Johnson fears what Santos' expulsion could mean for the House's future

Speaker Mike Johnson offering Rep. George Santos advice on the New York politician's misgivings seems even more surprising when one considers the stark contrast between Johnson's and Santos' lifestyles. Still, while Johnson's ultra-conservative lifestyle (which has drawn comparisons between his family and the Duggars) seems even more orthodox when butted against the controversial actions of his colleague, the speaker expressed concerns about what Santos' expulsion might mean for the future of Congress. 

Days after his meeting with Santos, Johnson announced that the House's vote to expel Santos would take place on Thursday, November 30. "What we've said as the leadership team is we're going to allow people to vote their conscience," the speaker said, per The Guardian. "I think it's the only appropriate thing we can do. We've not whipped the vote, and we wouldn't. I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith."

Johnson, who made history when he was elected Speaker of the House despite having only served seven years in the House of Representatives, admitted that he had reservations against voting Santos out of Congress. He said he feared that doing so could set a negative precedent for similar votes in the future. "Everybody's working through that, and we'll see how they vote tomorrow," Johnson said.