After sex trafficking allegations against Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida were made public on Tuesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R. CA) on Wednesday said that the GOP will remove Gaetz from his committee assignments if it’s found the allegations are true.
Gaetz is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 17 year old.
McCarthy did also suggest that Gaetz would remain on those panels, which include the powerful Judiciary Committee, while the investigation is ongoing:
“Those are serious implications. If it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that’s the case. But right now Matt Gaetz says that it’s not true and we don’t have any information. So let’s get all the information.”
The DOJ’s probe of Gaetz, one of former President Trump’s biggest defenders and supporters, began under Attorney General William Barr, while Trump was still in office.
The allegations against Gaetz includes the accusation that Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws by traveling with the underage girl across state lines.
Gaetz has vehemently denied the claims and contends that his family are victims of an extortion scheme featuring perpetrators asking for millions of dollars from his family to make the charges go away, as Gaetz told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson:
“I know that there was a demand for money in exchange for a commitment that he could make this investigation go away along with his co-conspirators.”
Gaetz also accused Democrats of fueling the allegations to silence him since he’s a vocal proponent of Trump and the MAGA movement:
“What I am troubled by is the real motivation for all of this. I believe we are in an era of our politics now, Tucker, where people are smeared to try to take them out of the conversation.”
On Wednesday, said he has not been briefed on the case by the Justice Department and has not talked to Gaetz the story broke.
Gaetz is used to being in the spotlight for controversial reasons. He was a leading proponent of the Donald Trump’s baseless claims that he had won the presidential election by a landslide and had it stolen from him by voter fraud.
He was one of the leaders of the majority of House Republicans that tried to help Trump overturn the election results by rejecting the electoral counts from two states on Jan. 6, right after a pro-Trump mob of violent insurrectionists stormed into the Capitol Building to disrupt the process, and likely worse.
On Tuesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz denied that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl after it was reported that the Justice Department was investigating the allegations that he paid the girl to travel with him and had a sexual relationship with her.
In a statement, Gaetz said that said “no part of the allegations against me are true” and instead the claims were coming from people that are currently targets of an “ongoing extortion investigation.”
“Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name. We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals,” Gaetz claimed.
“The planted leak to the New York Times tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicates their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations,” Gaetz added.
Gaetz also denied the claims in a series of tweets on Tuesday evening. “Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name. We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter…” Gaetz tweeted.
In a second tweet, Gaetz added, “…and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals. The planted leak to the FBI tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. No part of the allegations against me are true and the people pushing these lies are targets…”
In a third tweet, Gaetz writes, “I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes made at their direction, which implicates their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations.”
Gaetz then appeared on Fox News where he again denied the accusations then accused a former member of the DOJ of attempting to extort him and his family over the claims.
“The person doesn’t exist. I have not had a relationship with a 17-year-old. That is totally false. The allegation is, as I read in the New York Times is, I have traveled with some 17-year-old in some relationship. That is false and records will bear that out to be false,” Gaetz said.
A spokesperson for the FBI in Jacksonville responded by stating, “The FBI declines to confirm nor deny the existence or status of an investigation. We refer you to the Department of Justice for further comment regarding this report.”
The story was first reported on Tuesday by the New York Times that quoted sources that alleged that Gaetz was currently under investigation by the DOJ for possible sex trafficking for traveling with an underage girl he allegedly had sexual relations with.
Federal authorities are reportedly investigating Gaetz as part of a much broader investigation into sex trafficking allegations against another Florida politician, who is a close ally of Gaetz.
The person in question is Joel Greenberg, a former county official in Central Florida. He was arrested last year on charges that include sex trafficking of a minor. Greenberg pled not guilty and is set to go on trial in June.
The investigation into Gaetz was opened in the closing months of Donald Trump’s presidency. Reportedly the investigation into Greenberg is being overseen by public integrity prosecutors in Washington, DC, and Tampa is overseeing the Gaetz investigation.
Sources told NYT that investigators are looking at whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws. So far, no charges have been brought against Gaetz, but the investigation is ongoing.
Two individuals told the NYT that the encounters investigators are looking at allegedly took place two years ago. The investigation was opened by Trump’s attorney general William Barr.
Gaetz says that his attorneys have been in contact with the DOJ.
“I only know that it has to do with women,” Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”