Santos is enjoying the spotlight even as his show looks set to close

It was likely his second-to-last day in Congress, and New York Rep. George Santos seemed determined to go out the way he entered: as a scandalous curiosity attracting maximum attention.

The serial fabulist, charged with 23 federal felonies, arrived on the Capitol grounds at 8 a.m. Thursday for a news conference where he denounced the precedent set by the vote to oust him scheduled for the next day.

Dressed in navy blue Ferragamo loafers that he insisted were not bought with cash he is accused of stealing from his campaign (“Go to the website,” he said. “They’re six years old!”), Mr. Santos was surrounded by a semicircle of reporters who was lured out of bed with the promise of “big news”.

He did not resign. Instead, he said he was introducing a motion to expel another member, Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to setting off a fire alarm in the House office building as Democrats tried to delay a vote in Congress.

Yes, it was a gimmick, but that was his point. Mr Santos claimed his upcoming expulsion vote was “all theatre. It’s theater for the cameras. It’s microphone theater.”

If Congress was theater, Mr. Santos had just begun his latest run as the lead in the play, which he described as his “year from hell.”

Being at the center of a scandal of his own making may have been traumatic, but it was also exhilarating at times. Avoiding the cameras and walking with a trailing horde of reporters at least gave the non-committee congressman something to do in his last 10 months on Capitol Hill.

“If you’re not being chased by Manu, you’re not really a member of Congress,” Mr. Santos joked, referring to CNN’s seemingly ubiquitous congressional correspondent, Manu Raju. The friendly chat continued as Mr. Santos went into his second appearance of the day: an hour-long question-and-answer session with a group of hand-picked journalists he convened to talk about his current predicament and aspirations.

Mr. Santos complained about the poor optics of a passing garbage truck, an unsightly backdrop to his morning press conference. But overall, he said, “I’m strangely calm. I’m done with losing sleep, I’m done with stress. I just made my peace with God in the best way possible and said that I will accept whatever comes my way. I’m 35 years old, I still have a lot of life left.”

Mr Santos said he had finally accepted that he would most likely leave Congress on Friday and never return. “I think they have it,” he said of the two-thirds majority needed to oust him. “I mean, it’s the third time, pull yourself together.”

Still, as reporters from national news outlets sat around him, some peppering him with flattering questions about whether he might run for governor of New York, Mr. Santos was upbeat. He said that job offers are already coming in and that he plans to write a book. “I realized I was very employable,” he said. “He’s been offering me jobs left and right, from media to entertainment to advocacy.”

Mr Santos scoffed at the idea of ​​using the lifetime privileges granted to former members of Congress – even those who have been expelled. No one should expect to see him in the Capitol anytime soon, he said, adding, “I have a bad relationship with a lot of people in the body.” On Saturday morning, he planned to sleep in and then pack up his apartment in Washington for good.

Mr Santos, who is accused of using campaign funds for cosmetic procedures and OnlyFans, a website known for explicit content, said he would fight to prove his innocence. But he was not shy about the work he had done. “I use cosmetic botox and fillers, it’s no secret, did anyone doubt that?” he said, his lips full and a little wrinkled, his forehead essentially wrinkle-free.

On the House floor later in the afternoon, ahead of a debate on his impeachment, Mr. Santos sat in the middle of a mostly empty chamber, joined by a motley crew of allies who planned to speak on his behalf: Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, the House’s most famous problem child; Representative Clay Higgins of Louisiana, a far-right conspiracy theorist; and Texas Representative Troy Nehls, a Donald J. Trump loyalist who last month pushed for the former president’s nomination for House speaker.

“Whatever Mr. Santos did with Botox or OnlyFans worries me less than the indictment of Senator Menendez, who keeps gold bars with Arabic written on them from Egypt while still receiving classified briefings today,” Mr. Gaetz said, thinking on Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey who was indicted on bribery charges earlier this year.

“I rise not to defend George Santos, whoever he is,” Mr. Gaetz said. Instead, he was speaking to point to a precedent, he said.

At times, the debate turned into what the House has become best known for: Republican-on-Republican violence.

“You, sir, are a thief,” said Representative Max Miller, Republican of Ohio, addressing Mr. Santos directly.

Mr. Santos retorted: “My colleague wants to come here and call me a thief. The same colleague who was accused of being a bully.” (Mr. Miller was accused by Stephanie Grisham, a former White House press secretary in the Trump administration, of physical abuse. He sued her for defamation.)

For Democrats, Mr. Santos was, as he always has been, an easy target that also distracted from their larger project of branding the entire House Republican conference as a group of MAGA extremists. At his weekly news conference Thursday morning, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the minority leader, brought along as a prop a poster-sized photo of Mr. Santos and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia laughing together on the floor.

He called Mr Santos a “malignant nuisance” before launching into his practiced rap about how the “extreme MAGA Republican majority” still had no vision and no agenda, regardless of what happened to their most hated member.

For all his talk of peace and acceptance of his fate, Mr. Santos admitted that his future was not necessarily all about book sales, television deals and Saturdays spent hitting the snooze button.

“Of course,” he said when asked if he was worried about serving a prison sentence. “These are serious allegations and I have a lot of work ahead of me.”

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