The new Republican House majority apparently felt it had to put Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and George Santos (R-N.Y.) on some committees. And in picking which ones, it apparently aimed for (depending on your viewpoint) maximum irony or maximum trolling.
The choice for Greene is particularly remarkable given her penchant not just for conspiracy theories, but conspiracy theories specifically involving homeland security. Indeed, her making such claims was cited as among the very reasons for her removal from committees. Greene has also spread conspiracy theories about and even advocated the use of political violence, including at the U.S. Capitol itself.
- In 2018, Greene echoed conspiracy theories doubting that an airplane actually hit the Pentagon on 9/11. She cited “the so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon,” and added: “It’s odd there’s never any evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon.” In fact, video of the plane hitting the Pentagon was released in 2006. (When Greene’s comments were unearthed in 2020, she conceded in a tweet, “Some people claimed a missile hit the Pentagon. I now know that is not correct.”)
- That same year, Greene “liked” a Facebook comment that began by saying 9/11 “was done by our own gov[ernment],” before it launched into various other conspiracy theories. She also replied by saying, “That is all true,” according to a screenshot by the liberal watchdog Media Matters. (In her 2020 tweets, Greene said, “I’ve seen plenty of evidence that Islamic radicals hijacked four planes, attacked our country, and killed thousands of Americans on 9/11/01.”)
- Earlier that year, she repeatedly agreed with the idea that mass shootings were false flags intended to crack down on people’s Second Amendment rights.
- Also in 2018, Greene floated the idea that wildfires in California were caused by a laser from space linked to investment banks controlled by the Rothschilds, a prominent Jewish family that is often the target of antisemitic conspiracy theories. Even some GOP colleagues such as Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) have recently ribbed Greene over the “Jewish space laser” conspiracy theory, when they were on opposite sides of the contentious speakership votes.
- In addition to liking social media posts that called for the executions of prominent Democrats and federal agents in 2018 and 2019, she in 2019 urged supporters to “flood the Capitol” and use violence “if we have to” to address various grievances (though last year Greene beat back an effort to disqualify her from holding office for allegedly inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection).
- Greene also very recently remarked that if she and Stephen K. Bannon had organized the Jan. 6 insurrection, “we would have won. Not to mention, it would’ve been armed.” She later said it was a joke.
Santos’s appointment on the Small Business Committee might rival Greene’s installment on Homeland Security in terms of audacity (including because of things we learned just hours after it was announced). While much ink has been spilled on Santos’s lies about his background, perhaps his biggest liabilities moving forward are the questions about his dubious business and financial pursuits.
- The local news outlet Patch reported late Tuesday that a disabled veteran is accusing Santos of effectively bilking him of $3,000 that was raised for a surgery needed to save his service dog’s life. Santos has denied the accusation, but there is evidence that his pet charity was not the legitimate, tax-exempt organization he claimed it was. Neither the IRS nor the states of New York or New Jersey has records of such a charity. And a New Jersey animal rescue group previously said Santos never gave it the proceeds from a 2017 fundraiser.
- Santos in 2010 reportedly admitted to check fraud in Brazil, but authorities were unable to find him to resolve the case. The case has been resurrected in recent weeks. Santos has denied having broken the law.
- Santos in recent years worked for Harbor City Capital, which the Securities and Exchange Commission has accused of running a “classic Ponzi scheme” that defrauded investors of millions of dollars. Santos has not personally been accused of wrongdoing and has denied knowledge of such a scheme.
- Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Santos involves how he was able to self-fund his 2022 campaign to the tune of about $700,000, despite having reported little income during his 2020 run. Santos has cited a windfall from his business, the Devolder Organization, which he claims linked wealthy individuals to items they wanted to purchase. But there’s little evidence that the business was so successful, and the watchdog Campaign Legal Center has suggested that Santos might have used his business in an illegal straw-donor operation.
So here we have a man on the Small Business Committee who is credibly accused of being involved in multiple shady business dealings. We’ve also got a woman on the Homeland Security Committee who has engaged in conspiracy theorizing about precisely the tragedy that led to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, among many other far-flung claims about the kinds of issues she could soon be tasked with considering on that committee.
Republicans like House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have justified their decision to put Greene and Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) back on committees by arguing that the Democrats haven’t policed their own members on this front. But as The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler writes today, the reasons McCarthy has cited for potentially kicking Reps. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) off the House Intelligence Committee don’t really stand up to scrutiny, at least not according to the known facts.
For now, Greene can claim she has reformed her ways (despite evidence to the contrary), and Santos can deny the allegations against him. But there’s little question, if past is prelude, that each will proceed to test the wisdom of installing them on these specific committees.