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The latest twist in the George Santos scandal

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says George Santos will remain in Congress despite the New York Republican's lies and deceptions before his election. McCarthy spoke about the Santos scandal today after a growing number of Republicans in New York, including the state GOP chairman, called for Santos to resign. NPR's Brian Mann has been following this. And, Brian, Santos told a number of lies about his resume, his family heritage over the course of his campaign. What did Speaker McCarthy have to say about that?

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Yeah. Santos really invented his entire biography, as you say, from his work life to his personal life, inventing this story where his ancestors survived the Holocaust - turns out that's not true. But in this news conference today, Speaker McCarthy really downplayed the extraordinary nature of this scandal. He said Santos is a member in good standing of the GOP majority.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN MCCARTHY: The voters have elected George Santos. If there is a concern, he will go through ethics. If there is something that is found, he will be dealt with in that manner.

MANN: And McCarthy later confirmed that the House Ethics Committee will review Santos' behavior here.

SUMMERS: And I understand that McCarthy was also asked about whether Santos would receive sensitive committee assignments. What did McCarthy have to say?

MANN: Yeah. McCarthy said Santos' access to confidential government material will be limited right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MCCARTHY: I don't see any way that he's going to have top secret - you're referring to George Santos. He's got a long way to go to earn trust.

MANN: And, of course, some Republicans want a much tougher line on Santos. GOP leaders in Santos' district held a press conference yesterday and described him as a pariah and a pathological liar. As of today, 6 out of the 11 GOP House members from New York state say they want Santos booted.

SUMMERS: OK. And despite that, Santos, as I understand, has in the past said he is not resigning. Is that still the case?

MANN: Yeah, it is. Santos appeared on the far-right-wing podcast "War Room" today. It's hosted normally by Steve Bannon, but it was guest hosted by Congressman Matt Gaetz today. And Gaetz framed this scandal as a smear job against Santos.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "BANNON'S WAR ROOM")

MATT GAETZ: One thing I know about this town - they come for the fighters. And they are coming for George Santos like nothing I've seen in quite some time.

MANN: And during this appearance, Santos really played into that narrative. He blasted his fellow Republicans who are calling for him to resign.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "BANNON'S WAR ROOM")

GEORGE SANTOS: I just pray for all of you, when they come for you, that you have the same strength I have.

MANN: And Santos then went on to downplay the scale and the scope of his lies, which he calls embellishments. And he said he'll serve his full term.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "BANNON'S WAR ROOM")

SANTOS: I was elected by 142,000 people. Until those same 142,000 people tell me they don't want me, we'll find out in two years.

MANN: Republicans in New York, of course, say they're going to actively oppose Santos if he does choose to run again.

SUMMERS: OK. So, Brian, setting aside his biography for a second here, there have also been a number of financial questions, including about where Santos got his campaign money. He raised so much that he was able to donate to other Republican candidates. What does he have to say about that?

MANN: Yeah, he really dodged this question today. Santos has acknowledged having very little income until 2020, but then suddenly his company started showing millions of dollars in assets and revenue, which he donated to his own election effort and to other candidates. The question now is, where did that money come from? At least two probes are now underway. When asked repeatedly today about this - where did that money come from? - Santos wouldn't answer.

SUMMERS: All right. That was NPR's Brian Mann. Brian, thank you.

MANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brian Mann