The Republican congressman George Santos has temporarily withdrawn from two House committees to which he was appointed by party leaders despite a spiraling scandal over his largely made-up résumé and investigations of his bizarre past behavior and current campaign finance filings.
Santos told fellow Republicans of his decision at a closed-door party meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning.
Multiple news outlets cited an unnamed source as saying the New Yorker told fellow Republicans he had become "a distraction".
In a statement emailed to the Guardian, Santos's office said: "He is recusing himself until he is cleared. Please note that his seat will be reserved until the congressman has been cleared of both campaign and personal financial investigations."
Kevin McCarthy, the House speaker, told reporters: "I met with George Santos yesterday and I think it was an appropriate decision that until he could clear everything up, he's off committees right now … We had a discussion and he asked me if he could do that."
Earlier this month, McCarthy appointed Santos to the committees on small business and science, space and technology.
The speaker did so despite confirming that a member of staff for Santos pretended to be McCarthy's chief of staff while seeking campaign donations.
That was hardly the biggest news of Santos's first month in Congress since winning New York's third district last year.
Found to have largely fabricated his educational and professional résumé, he has denied or deflected reports about his past conduct including an alleged fraud of a homeless veteran seeking medical care for his dog and appearances as a drag queen in Brazil.
Santos is under local, state, federal and international investigation - in Brazil, over alleged use of a stolen chequebook.
It emerged last week that Santos, who has also been known as Anthony Devolder, faces a criminal investigation by the US Department of Justice over campaign finance filings that have prompted questions about the source of his personal wealth and a possible link with a Russian autocrat.
Santos has admitted "embellishing" his résumé but denied wrongdoing and said he will not resign.
Republicans in Santos's district and other New York Republicans have been joined by New York and national Democrats in calling for Santos to quit. Polling in the third district shows nearly 80% of voters now think he should do so.
But if he did, prompting a special election, McCarthy would face further erosion of an already slender majority.
Before being sworn into Congress, Santos backed McCarthy through 15 rounds of voting for the position of speaker as the far-right of the party rebelled.
Since then, McCarthy and other party leaders have repeatedly said Santos should not resign.
On Tuesday, Marc Molinaro, another freshman Republican from New York, told Politico: "The decision to not serve on committees is in his and our best interest. As I said, I think he should resign and focus on his defense. But I do welcome this decision."
Don Bacon of Nebraska, a Republican moderate, told the same outlet Santos "apologised and said he was going to recuse himself … for now. He just said he recused himself for a while and then he'll come back".
Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, both a leading rightwing extremist and a solid McCarthy ally, told reporters Santos "asked that we all support him when everything settles down for him to serve on committees".