Rep. Matt Gaetz (R. FL) has been in the spotlight for the better part of the last week, and not for positive reasons.
As the scandal continues to become public, the controversial congressman has kept himself in the spotlight by making loud defenses and excuses for himself, and now, for another reason.
Gaetz is being investigated for the possible sex trafficking of a minor for traveling across state lines with a 17-year-old sexual partner, and has given defiant interviews, on-the-record quotes, penned op-eds and retweeted multiple supportive articles from extreme rightwing outlets.
On Tuesday, he took his very public strategy further by sending out a fundraising note via email to his supporters, complaining of the “smear campaign:”
“The far-left New York Times has been publishing salacious allegations against me in an attempt to end my career fighting for the forgotten men and women of this country. It is a shame that the Left tries to drag my dating life into their political attacks, but it’s no surprise – when your ideas suck, you have to stoop this low.”
Then there’s a red button inviting the reader to “CLICK HERE TO FIGHT BACK AGAINST THE FAKE NEWS,” which links to a donation page.
Gaetz has vehemently denied that he paid for sex or “slept with” a minor as an adult himself. If he did, that is a crime in many states by itself, but traveling across state lines to have sex invokes the age of 18, the federal age of consent.
Gaetz is good friends with Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County official who has been indicted for sex trafficking. The investigation into Gaetz behavior is likely an offshoot of the one into Greenberg.
Gaetz has claimed that the investigation is part of a $25 million extortion plan by a former federal prosecutor, David McGee, who old the Daily Beast that Gaetz’s extortion claims are “completely, totally false.”
On Monday, Gaetz wrote an op-ed in the Washington Examiner, comparing his situation by pointing to to former President Bill Clinton and the current sex scandals of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Clinton and Cuomo are both Democrats:
“My lifestyle of yesteryear may be different from how I live now, but it was not and is not illegal. I defended Rep. Katie Hill’s ‘throuple’ when her own Democratic colleagues wouldn’t. I just didn’t think it was anyone’s business.”
Hill was forced out of Congress over a relationship with a subordinate and photos made public without her consent. She spoke up about the Gaetz scandal this week:
“Let me state it as clearly as possible: If, despite his denials, Matt Gaetz did have sex with a minor, if he did provide girls and young women with drugs and money and gifts in exchange for sex, if he did ask these girls and young women to recruit other women for the same purpose, and if he did show his colleagues images of nude women without their consent, he needs to be held responsible. If there is even a fraction of truth to these reports, he should resign immediately.”
Embattled GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida spent most of his time from Jan. 2017 to Jan. 2021 passionately supporting and defending former President Donald Trump through Trump’s scandal after scandal after scandal.
But it now appears that Trump is not going to return the favor in the wake of Gaetz’ own scandal, as he is alleged to have engaged in sex trafficking by crossing state lines with a minor.
According to Politico, the entire Trump family has been completely quiet about Gaetz’s legal problems, viewing him as “a grenade whose pin had already been pulled.”
Sources within Trump’s world told Politico that few people are surprised that the Florida Representative has been caught up in accusations of illegal activity. One Trump aide described Gaetz as an “unserious person:”
“Anyone that has ever spent 10 minutes with the guy would realize he’s an unserious person.”
Trump has frequently defended his fellow Republicans who have been accused of sexual misconduct, such as failed Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama, but has apparently stayed away from the Gaetz mess because of Gaetz’ disastrous interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson as the story became public:
“The reason you haven’t seen people in MAGA world defending Gaetz is less about him being unpopular, which he is in a lot of circles, and more about the fact that he hasn’t done a single thing to make people comfortable to defend him,” one Trump confidant explained. “His interview with Tucker was an absolutely embarrassing train wreck.”
On Tuesday, The New York Times broke a major news development in a report that Gaetz begged the White House for a preemptive pardon:
“In the final weeks of Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Gaetz sought something in return. He privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people told of the discussions.”
The Times continued:
“Around that time, Mr. Gaetz was also publicly calling for broad pardons from Mr. Trump to thwart what he termed the “bloodlust” of their political opponents. But Justice Department investigators had begun questioning Mr. Gaetz’s associates about his conduct, including whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that violated sex trafficking laws, in an inquiry that grew out of the case of an indicted associate in Florida.”
The Times concluded that it was unclear whether Gaetz or the White House knew about the investigation at the time he asked for the pardon, or who else he may have sought pardons for.
Gaetz did not tell White House aides that he was under investigation when he asked, but allegedly top White House lawyers and officials saw Gaetz’ request for a pre-emptive pardon as something that would be a bad look and set a bad precedent.
On Tuesday, sex trafficking allegations surfaced against Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz that are directly connected to the ongoing investigation into a former Orlanda tax collector with whom Gaetz has close ties.
There is a federal child sex trafficking case against Joel Greenberg, who was elected in 2016 as tax collector in Seminole County. That investigation kicked off the separate federal investigation into Gaetz.
The Justice Department is said to currently be investigating allegations that Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a teenage girl, who he paid to travel with him across state lines.
Gaetz has denied the allegations and now claims that the allegations were made to cover up an attempt to extort his family of $25 million.
So far, there are no clear specifics to how Gaetz’s case intertwines with Greenberg’s, but the two men are well acquainted with each other and have been photographed together on several occasions including one image that was shared online of Gaetz, Greenberg, and Trump ally Roger Stone.
Back in 2019, Greenberg was photographed with Gaetz outside of the White House.
Greenberg’s backstory goes back to 2016 when he won the tax collector position. The individual that Greenberg beat had held the position for three decades and was involved in a controversial real estate deal that was partially why Greenberg won the post.
Greenberg’s first move once in office was for his deputies to carry firearms while on duty. He then began wearing a tax collector badge like he was a member of law enforcement. He allegedly once used the badge to pull a woman over and accuse her of speeding.
He also attempted to get out of a speeding ticket by telling the officer who he was. That incident was captured on a police body camera. He was issued a ticket.
Now, here’s the big stuff. Greenberg gave government contracts and paid salaries to close friends and business partners including six people who were part of his wedding party back in 2016. The total of tax dollars spent was $1.9 million.
He also used public funds assigned to the tax collector’s office were used to buy body armor, firearms, ammunition, and a drone an audit revealed.
Greenberg also spent $66,000 on a server room for a private cryptocurrency company he founded. He operated the business out of a county building called Government Blockchain Systems LLC. Servers were incorrectly installed in the building causing a circuit breaker to overload sparking a fire, which caused $6,700 in damages that were not covered by insurance.
On June 23, 2020, Greenberg’s career went up in smoke when federal officers raided his home when he was charged with stalking his political opponent.
Greenberg sent an anonymous letter to the school at which his rival worked. He pretended to be a “concerned student” accusing the teacher of inappropriate sexual contact with another student.
Greenberg also created fake Twitter and Facebook accounts made to look like they were those of his rival and posted segregationist and white supremacist material.
The day after his home was raided, Greenberg resigned.
As federal investigators continued to investigate more serious charges surfaced. Greenberg had allegedly used his office to commit identity theft and was accused of having sex-trafficked a child.
While going through a government-owned SUV that Greenberg drove officials found a backpack in the front seat that contained several fake IDs. When they searched his office, they found the materials needed to make those fake IDs.
He is also accused of accessing state databases to obtain personal information on people he was in “sugar daddy” relationships with. Those “people” included a minor between the age of 14 and 17.
The indictment states that Greenberg made the fake IDs to “facilitate his efforts to engage in commercial sex acts”.
After his arrest, Greenberg was released on bond. However, he was taken back into custody on March 3 after he violated a nighttime curfew when he drove to Jupiter, Florida in search of his wife who was staying at her mother’s home.
On Wednesday after the news broke that Gaetz was being investigated twenty-one charges were added to Greenberg’s case including bribery of a public official, theft of government property, and wire fraud.
Greenberg allegedly took $400,000 in government money from his official office and $432,700 from the federal relief bill.
Greenberg is currently in the Orange Country Jail where he will remain until his trial scheduled for mid-June.