A guy who temporarily served as U.S. Representative George Santos’ assistant claims he was hired after making a number of payments to one of the Republican’s senior assistants.
In an interview with members of the House’s ethics subcommittee on Wednesday, Derek Myers, 31, said that in late January, while applying for a job in Santos’ congressional office, he transferred at least seven payments totalling $150 to Santos’ director of operations, Vish Burra.
The Associated Press received information about the payments from Myers, including text exchanges and receipts. His explanation of how Burra assisted him in landing a job is new information, and it raises concerns about possible unethical behaviour at Santos.
Myers claimed that he started making the unsolicited donations because he thought Burra, a right-wing political operative, wasn’t being paid at the time by the House and couldn’t afford food. But he said that he also hoped the monies would enable him to find employment.
“Burra was a powerful person,” Myers told the AP. “I wanted him to advocate on my behalf.”
Burra, Santos’ dependable sidekick who assisted in escorting his boss away from the media following his arraignment in federal court last month, chose not to comment.
As part of an investigation into charges Myers made of workplace sexual harassment after being let go from Santos’ staff in February, House investigators questioned Myers about the payments, which were supported by receipts and text messages.
Late in January, Myers, a former journalist, was offered a job as a legislative assistant. However, she only held the position for a little over a week. When a background check revealed that Myers had been charged with wiretapping in Ohio after posting a recording of a trial, Santos expressed his worry to Myers.
Myers said in a letter to the House Committee on Ethics in February that Santos had touched his crotch and ran his hand over the inside of his leg while they were alone in the office, which is why he had been fired.
Santos has refuted the claim and called it “comical.”
Santos, who has acknowledged to creating most of his biography and is currently dealing with federal accusations of fraud and money laundering, is the subject of an investigation by the House Ethics Committee into a number of claims of unethical behaviour.
Republicans in the House avoided a vote to remove Santos last month by submitting the issue to the ethics committee. Who the committee is interviewing or when a decision might be made have not been made public.
On Wednesday, committee members interrogated Myers for two hours about his claims of sexual harassment, his relationship with Burra, and if he had observed any criminal activity during his brief time in the office.
He related how he discovered Burra online and how he pushed for a position at Santos’ office out of a genuine desire to aid the scandal-plagued lawmaker.
Additionally, Myers supplied proof in the form of emails, texts, and receipts proving his Venmo payments to Burra.
Myers claimed in his interview that Burra never sought money from him but did once urge him to “send more pizza,” which he interpreted as a reference to the pizza emoji they had previously used in Venmo subject lines.
Myers was questioned by House investigators over a text conversation he had with Burra on January 29, just days after receiving the job offer. “Did you get payroll yet?” Myers had questioned Burra during that conversation.
“No. You didn’t have to do that man,” Burra replied, adding later, “I’m gonna pay you back for sure.”
In his testimony with the House investigators, Myers admitted that he had secretly taped at least one conversation with Santos and then given it to a reporter. Additionally, he said that while still employed by Santos, he went to the FBI in order to explore the possibility of serving as a covert informant for law enforcement.
He claimed that after being made to leave his work, he made the decision to speak out about the harassing episode.