Florida Rep. Byron Donalds said Wednesday that his embattled Republican colleague, Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., should be allowed to sit on House committees while a potential ethics investigation into Santos’ conduct plays out.
Asked by CNN’s Manu Raju about the Santos controversy, Donalds pointed out that Santos is far from the only politician to have lied about his past before getting elected to Congress.
‘In this country, you’re still innocent until proven guilty. There have been members who’ve – issues have come up in the past – they were allowed to be on their committees, be sat on committees. And then the legal process takes hold and we make adjustments,’ Donalds said. ‘That’s probably what’s going to happen today.’
Asked if he would join other lawmakers in calling for Santos to resign, Donalds said he wouldn’t.
‘No, I’ve been clear, I think that’s something between him and his voters,’ he said. ‘It’s unfortunate what has occurred, but, I mean, look, Richard Blumenthal was still a senator who lied about his service. He’s still a senator today.’
The Florida lawmaker was referring to decade-old allegations of stolen valor related to Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s false claim that he fought in the Vietnam War.
Blumenthal, a Democrat who was elected to the Senate in 2010, regularly referenced his supposed Vietnam service in the 2000s when he was Connecticut attorney general.
‘I served during the Vietnam era,’ Blumenthal reportedly said at a Vietnam War memorial in 2008. ‘I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even the physical abuse.’
Blumenthal reportedly obtained at least five military deferments between 1965 and 1970. He eventually served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve but did not deploy to Vietnam.
In 2010, Blumenthal admitted that he had ‘misspoken about my service, and I regret that, and I take full responsibility.’
Santos, a son of Brazilian immigrants who was elected to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District in November, faces his own controversies for numerous lies told on the campaign trail. A New York Times report revealed large portions of his backstory could not be substantiated, and he later admitted to fabricating degrees from Baruch College and New York University, as well as falsely claiming that he had worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
He was also revealed to have lied about his Jewish heritage, is accused of running a fake charity for animals, and he is wanted by Brazilian authorities on charges relating to allegations of a stolen checkbook, according to the New York Times.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress have called on Santos to resign. Nassau County Republicans have also called on the disgraced congressman to step down, saying that his campaign for Congress was based on ‘deceit, lies and fabrication.’
The House Ethics Committee is widely expected to open a probe into Santos’ conduct, and he is also facing local, state and federal investigations into how he funded his House campaign.
Santos has refused all calls to resign.
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report.