Yesterday, the New York Times released an article detailing that the Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) was under an active FBI investigation over allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and apparently pay her to travel with him. According to the article, federal prosecutors are investigating if the congressman had violated any federal sex trafficking laws.
The piece also lays out that the investigation, opened in the last months of the Trump administration, was part of a broader inquiry over Joel Greenberg, a Florida local politician who appears to be a political ally of Mr. Gaetz and who was indicted last summer over a variety of sex trafficking-related charges.
Rep. Gaetz quickly responded to the allegations, saying that he and his family have been victims of an “organized criminal extortion” where former DOJ employees were blackmailing the lawmaker, asking him to pay $25 million in exchange for not releasing information that would “smear” his name. Gaetz, who published his response on a Twitter thread, also said that the DOJ has been investigating this extortion scheme and asked them to release tapes that his father has allegedly recorded on the issue.
Last night, the congressman was also interviewed by Tucker Carlson on his primetime show in Fox News. There, Gaetz continued to explain his side of the story, arguing that the allegations were not only false but also part of an intricate criminal conspiracy lead by former DOJ attorney David McGee that promised to bury the FBI investigation in exchange of the $25 million payment.
Gaetz also claimed that the story released by the New York Times appears to be released with the purpose of “quell” the ongoing extortion investigation against him and he was convinced that there were many people within the Department of Justice that are trying to smear him, implying that this might be because he is a “well-known, outspoken” conservative.
In his interview, Gaetz also said that he never had any relationship with a 17-year-old, saying that such allegations were “totally false” and that the records would prove him right. He also clarified that “providing for flights and hotel rooms for people you are dating of legal age is not a crime” and also said that there were also false allegations involving him with underage prostitutes, a charge he vehemently denies.
The Florida congressman also claimed that the FBI threatened a friend of him, who Gaetz claims Tucker Carlson met at a dinner with him two years ago (Carlson says he has no memory of this) to confess to a “pay-for-play” scheme involving him and that if not, she could face legal troubles as well.
Gaetz finalized the rather strange interview by making another public request to the FBI and the Department of Justice to release the tapes and information they had over the extortion investigation to the public, in order to clean his name.
Gaetz is already facing some political pressure linked to this ongoing story, with Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) has called for the Florida congressman to either resign or be removed from his position in the Judiciary Committee while he is being under federal investigation.
Gaetz, who has became famous within the conservative world by being one of President Trump’s most outspoken supporters, was also considering to retire from Congress and take a role as a pundit in Newsmax, according to an Axios report published hours before the sex trafficking allegations were made public.
There are many unknowns in this case, with few to none concrete details known to the public about these allegations and neither the DOJ nor the FBI have made any public statement yet about the issue.
Although there is a lot of uncertainty about the direction this case is going to take, we can be sure of one thing: this will be an ongoing political headache for Mr. Gaetz, who would now have to answer a long list of unanswered questions that the New York Times and his interview with Tucker Carlson have raised.