Traitors, Felons and, Now, Santos


With his expulsion from the House of Representatives on Friday, George Santos, R-N.Y., joined a select group of disgraced U.S. politicians consigned to that ignominious fate.

In the history of Congress, only 20 members — five representatives and 15 senators — had previously been removed from office by a vote of their peers, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The reason for most of the earlier ousters was disloyalty to the United States, specifically for backing the Confederacy over the Union amid the Civil War.

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Of the senators, 14 were expelled for that reason, while one, William Blount of Tennessee, was ousted after hatching a scheme to attack Spanish Florida and Louisiana, territories at the time, and transfer them to England for his own financial gain.

Three of the five House members ousted before Santos were slave-owning Confederacy supporters. The other two were expelled in more recent years after being convicted of felonies.

Henry C. Burnett of Kentucky

Burnett was born in Virginia in 1825 and moved to Trigg County, Kentucky, in the state’s southwestern corner, as a child, according to the Kentucky Historical Society.

A lawyer and politician, he was the Trigg County Court clerk before being elected to represent Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District in 1854.

He served in the House from 1855 until his expulsion in December 1861 for disloyalty to the Union and was a colonel in the Kentucky Infantry, part of the Confederate army during the Civil War.

John B. Clark of Missouri

Clark was born in Kentucky in 1802 and later moved to Missouri, settling in Howard County, in what is known as the Little Dixie region in the central part of the state.

A lawyer and militia officer, he was a member of Missouri’s House of Representatives before being elected to Congress in 1856.

He was expelled from the House in July 1861 for disloyalty to the Union. He was a senator from Missouri in the first Confederate Congress and a brigadier general of Missouri’s Confederate troops.

John W. Reid of Missouri

Reid was born in Virginia in 1821 and moved to Missouri in 1840. After studying law, he began practicing in Jefferson City.

He served as a captain in the U.S. war with Mexico and was a member of Missouri’s House of Representatives before being elected to Congress in 1860.

He withdrew from the House of Representatives in August 1861 and was expelled four months later for disloyalty to the Union. He was a volunteer aide to Gen. Sterling Price of the Confederate army during the Civil War.

Michael J. Myers of Pennsylvania

Myers, known as Ozzie, was born in Philadelphia in 1943. After graduating from high school, he worked as a steamship checker with the longshoremen’s union.

A former Pennsylvania state lawmaker and a Democrat, he was elected to the House of Representatives in a special election in 1976 and reelected two years later.

He was expelled from Congress in 1980 by a vote of 376-30 after being convicted of bribery in the so-called Abscam scandal, a sting operation in which federal agents posed as wealthy Arabs and offered several members of Congress bribes in exchange for favors. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Last year, he was sentenced to prison again after pleading guilty to election fraud. He was accused of orchestrating schemes to stuff the ballot boxes on behalf of Democratic candidates in several Pennsylvania elections.

James A. Traficant Jr. of Ohio

Traficant, a Democrat, was born in Youngstown in 1941. He worked as a drug counselor for a decade before being elected as Mahoning County sheriff in 1980.

He gained notoriety while in that job when federal prosecutors charged him with taking bribes from organized crime figures. He was acquitted after a trial at which he acted as his own lawyer despite lacking a law degree.

Combative and colorful, he was elected to Congress the next year and remained there until 2002, when he was expelled by a vote of 420-1 after being convicted of bribery, racketeering, tax evasion and other felonies.

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