Wednesday, 4:52 p.m.
Santos stands up from his usual seat in the middle of the House chamber, three seats from the center corridor where the late-night McCarthy speakership vote almost descended into a brawl. This is his usual perch on the floor, where he frequently yawns, covers his mouth, scrolls on his phone, looks off into the distance, clearly bored. His usual floor comrades: Republicans Burchett, Andy Harris of Maryland, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, and Anna Paulina Luna of Florida, with whom he trades jokes and makes conversation. Nancy Pelosi stops by in a burnt orange pantsuit, exchanging pleasantries with Burchett, grasping his forearm and patting his shoulder, laughing but pointedly never so much as glancing at Santos.
Carrying a brown folder, Santos makes his way down to the well, looking confident. He’s going to give his first floor speech, a one-minute expression of support for Iran’s protests. The chamber had just voted, with 420 members in support, to pass a resolution commending the protesters.
He approaches the clerk, wearing a variation of his trademark ensemble — a charcoal gray pullover under a slate pinstripe jacket — and he starts waxing on Ronald Reagan and freedom, words tumbling over words in a rush to make time. He looks down at the lectern, exposing the thinning tuft of hair atop his head.
“I declare with every bullet and with every act of violence imposed by the Iranian government comes a call for us to condemn their actions,” he says, in a decorous monotone, “and urge the Biden administration to take far greater action than mere sanctions to address the countless murders and examples of senseless brutality.
“I yield back my time.”
I catch Santos as he’s coming out of the Speaker’s Lobby, the colonnaded foyer just outside the House chamber. A veteran journalist is walking with him, deploying the time-honored reporter’s tactic of asking his question in a level, measured tone, so as not to come off as combative.
“Do you feel like at some point you need to answer questions, though, to sort of clear up—” the reporter says. “WHO’S KICKING ME?” Santos spits back at the roving scrum that had now mushroomed to a few reporters pushing for space, including me. (To be clear, nobody kicked him. I’d stepped on the back of his foot by accident amid the chaos. I quickly apologize, but he ignores me.)
Then more questions from the press, which aren’t just questions that journalists have, but questions that his constituents also have: “Have you been contacted by the Ethics Committee?”
“I’ve not,” George Santos says. (“No comment,” writes Tom Rust, the committee’s chief counsel, in a later email.)
I ask: “Have you been in touch with your legal team?”
“With who?” With your legal team.
“With my legal team? Do I have a legal team? I’m asking you, ‘Do I?’ You guys seem to know more than I do about myself!”