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The House of Representatives voted on Friday to expel George Santos from the lower chamber of the US Congress in a rare step that followed a damning congressional report detailing the New York Republican’s “complex web of unlawful activity”.

His expulsion will trigger a special election for a swing seat in a closely divided House. Republicans can now only afford to lose three votes to retain the ability to pass legislation without Democratic maintain.

The rebuke is only the sixth time in US history that the House has ousted one of its own members. The first three were expelled for treason after they fought for the Confederacy during the civil war and the other two were convicted of bribery.

The vote was 311 to 114, above the two-thirds threshold required. House Speaker Mike Johnson and other Republican leaders voted against Santos’s expulsion.

Santos, who represented a district in Long Island, New York, is under federal indictment but has not been convicted of a crime. He has pleaded not guilty to 23 charges, including allegations that he stole donor information and repeatedly charged contributors’ credit cards without their authorisation.

Santos told reporters on Thursday he had decided not to seek re-election because it would be an “uphill battle” against the Republican party and the press, but noted that he was only 35 years old and could one day return to public service. 

“There’s a point in time where you just say enough is enough,” said Santos. “It doesn’t mean that it’s goodbye forever.”

Santos had beaten back previous efforts to expel him but the House ethics committee released a 56-page report in mid-November saying he had tried to “fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit”.

His expenditures, it said, included using campaign funds to pay for Botox — and a limited liability company linked to the campaign transferred tens of thousands of dollars to the congressman’s personal accounts to make purchases at Hermès, Sephora and OnlyFans, the online platform used by sex workers. 

In his brief political career, Santos wove a pattern of deceit. By the time he was sworn in this year, the media had reported that his claims of working for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and to have obtained a degree from Baruch College in New York, were false. 

Santos admitted to having “embellished” his CV, also saying he was a practising Catholic rather than, as he had previously claimed, a “proud American Jew”. He later told the New York Post that he was “Jew-ish” due to his “maternal family background”.

Additional reporting by Lauren Fedor and James Politi in Washington

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