The political peril for conservative Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz deepened Friday as the usually outlandish, Trump-styled provocateur appeared politically remoted amid a federal sex-trafficking investigation.
Few Republicans rushed to supply any sort of help to the three-term Florida congressman recognized for espousing high-volume assaults — generally in opposition to these in his personal celebration — throughout his frequent media appearances. A number of GOP lawmakers and prime aides who requested anonymity to debate the delicate state of affairs mentioned Gaetz’s prospects for remaining in Congress have been bleak and have been sophisticated particularly by his unpopularity amongst colleagues in his personal celebration.
Federal prosecutors are inspecting whether or not Gaetz and a political ally who’s dealing with intercourse trafficking allegations might have paid underage women or supplied them presents in change for intercourse, two individuals acquainted with the matter advised The Related Press on Friday.
The scrutiny of Gaetz stemmed from the Justice Division’s probe into the political ally, Joel Greenberg, the individuals mentioned. Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector, was indicted final yr and is accused of quite a few federal crimes. He has pleaded not responsible.
Republican congressional leaders have largely been silent in regards to the investigation, which continues.
That mirrored the intense nature of the fees in a narrative that appears so as to add new parts by the day, giving lawmakers little motivation to connect themselves to Gaetz.
A part of the investigation is inspecting whether or not Gaetz, 38, had intercourse with a 17-year-old and different underage women and violated federal intercourse trafficking legal guidelines, the individuals acquainted with the probe advised the AP. Federal brokers suspect Greenberg might have enticed the women after which launched a few of them to Gaetz, and they’re inspecting whether or not each males might have had intercourse with the identical women, the individuals mentioned.
The individuals with information of the investigation couldn’t focus on particulars publicly and spoke to The Related Press on situation of anonymity. Particulars of the investigation have been first reported by The New York Occasions.
Gaetz has vehemently denied the allegations and mentioned in an announcement earlier this week that “No a part of the allegations in opposition to me are true.”
For individuals who have watched the congressman’s rise in Florida and Washington, there have been few surprises.
As a former state legislator, he was broadly recognized in Tallahassee earlier than arriving within the nation’s Capitol the place he made a splash attaching himself to Trump.
Many colleagues on Capitol Hill view Gaetz as being obsessive about self-promotion, as illustrated by his quite a few tv appearances which might be unusually excessive for a lawmaker not in a senior place, who spoke on situation of anonymity to explain inner conversations. That is Gaetz’s fifth yr in Congress.
They’re particularly upset along with his willingness to publicly tackle fellow Republicans, which many contemplate needlessly divisive.
That was most clearly on show when he traveled to Wyoming in January to induce voters there to not reelect Rep. Liz Cheney. Days earlier, Cheney, the No. 3 Home GOP chief, was amongst simply 10 Home Republicans to vote to question Trump.
Among the many uncommon lawmakers to precise help for Gaetz is freshman GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, one other rising determine within the GOP propelled by her media appearances and use of social media to unfold baseless conspiracy theories.
Home Minority Chief Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., advised reporters this week that accusations in opposition to Gaetz have been “critical.”
The Gaetz investigation, which has been occurring since no less than the summer time of 2020, reached the very best ranges of the Justice Division, and former Lawyer Normal William Barr was briefed on the matter a number of instances, the individuals mentioned.
In the previous few months, investigators have additionally interviewed a number of witnesses within the case and have been scrutinizing paperwork, together with journey and monetary data, the individuals mentioned.
Greenberg was the elected tax collector in Seminole County close to Orlando when he resigned final June after his arrest on federal prices. Initially, these included stalking a political opponent, trafficking a minor for intercourse and illegally utilizing a state database to create pretend driver’s licenses and different ID playing cards.
Since then, the case in opposition to Greenberg has ballooned to greater than 30 prices, together with wire fraud and different prices involving efforts to divert no less than $400,000 from the tax collectors workplace into cryptocurrency he managed and for his personal private use, equivalent to the acquisition of memorabilia autographed by NBA greats Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, federal prosecutors say. Different prices accuse him of utilizing two corporations he managed to aim to fraudulently acquire coronavirus aid funds.
Gaetz has mentioned the allegations in opposition to him are a part of an extortion plot by an legal professional in Florida, who labored many years in the past as a federal prosecutor and whom Gaetz recognized as David McGee.
In response, McGee’s legislation agency mentioned the allegation that Gaetz made in regards to the supposed extortion try was “each false and defamatory.” The agency mentioned that McGee had served in prime positions on the U.S. legal professional’s workplace in Florida about 25 years in the past and that his “status for integrity and moral conduct was impeccable.”
The Justice Division has a separate investigation into the extortion allegations, being led out of the U.S. legal professional’s workplace in northern Florida, in keeping with an individual acquainted with the investigation who additionally couldn’t focus on the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on situation of anonymity.
Gaetz has mentioned that his household has been cooperating with the FBI and that his father was carrying a recording gadget, on the FBI’s route, “to catch these criminals.” He additionally demanded the Justice Division launch the recordings.
The Justice Division has not commented.