The George Santos extradition conundrum

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Another day, another fraud scam for House Republican George Santos. This time a Brazilian news channel is reporting that more than a decade ago, Santos and a woman traveled together to the United States, where he drained her bank account and pawned her jewelry. This comes after last week’s news that Brazil already had a completed criminal case ready to go against Santos for alleged check fraud several years ago before he left the country, and is now planning to charge him and hold a trial.

This also comes even as some more of the dots have been connected between Santos, the alleged ponzi scheme company he worked for in Florida, the sham company he launched after the ponzi scheme was busted, and the money he may have loaned his campaign from that sham company. It’s getting so ugly that even Deutsche Bank – long known as a notorious facilitator of money laundering – was telling clients that the whole thing was a fraud. Do you know how much of a fraud you have to be for Deutsche Bank to call you out?

This raises some interesting questions about international jurisdiction, which don’t matter yet but could soon become rather important. Brazil will likely indict George Santos first, because it built its case against him years ago before he left the country. It’ll hold a trial whether he shows up for it or not. And if he’s convicted and sentenced to prison, it’ll seek extradition. That’s when things will get intriguing.

The US is investigating Santos at the federal and state level, for the potential campaign finance fraud he may have committed in 2022. Those probes are still getting underway and may take awhile. But by the time Brazil seeks extradition, US prosecutors should have a sense of whether they’re going to end up charging him.

If Santos is indeed going to be indicted in the US, then Brazil will have to wait its turn. Of course at that point the doomsday pundits would begin pushing the absurd conspiracy theory that the DOJ is blocking extradition to protect Santos. That’s insane, but some pundits will push it anyway. That’s just a heads up for when you end up hearing it.

Meanwhile back in the real world, if Brazil requests extradition and the U.S. government declines it’ll mean Santos is 100% being indicted in the United States, on charges serious enough to blow off Brazil’s desire to put Santos in prison for check fraud.

Of course none of this will have any direct impact on Santos’ status as a member of Congress. The only thing that gets you kicked out of Congress during your term is if you’re expelled with a two-thirds vote. Even if Santos were sitting in a prison cell – even a cell in Brazil – he could still theoretically remain a sitting member of Congress until the end of his term. Then again, at some point in Santos’ downfall, even these House Republicans will eventually decide that he’s no longer of any value and toss him aside, if only for selfish reasons. They’ll just keep him around far too long, and generate far too many ugly headlines for themselves, before belatedly cutting bait.

But the larger point is this: George Santos has not in any way insulated himself from criminal prosecution by deciding to take office. In fact House Republicans Duncan Hunter, Chris Collins, and Jeff Fortenberry have all been indicted and convicted of various crimes over the past few years, and let’s just say that none of them are in Congress anymore.

So no, George Santos is not going to “get away with it all.” When you’re being criminally investigated in two countries and one of them has already decided to charge you, you’re losing the game you’re playing, no matter how much sick fun you might be having playing it. Meanwhile House Democrats are weaponizing Santos by holding him up as the poster child for an embarrassingly corrupt and inept Republican House. By refusing to promptly resign, Santos is helping the Democrats’ odds of winning the House in 2024. But what does he care? He’s got far bigger problems.

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