The FBI has announced an investigation into Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz over allegations that the Republican, 38, slept with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travel two years ago, The New York Times first reported on March 31. The age of sexual consent in Florida is 18. The Department of Justice is investigating whether Gaetz, a GOP firebrand and close Donald Trump ally, has violated sex trafficking laws. The third-term congressman has not been charged with anything at this time, and says he is cooperating with the investigation.
Gaetz fervently denied all allegations in a statement — and then some. In what Fox News’ Tucker Carlson called his “weirdest interview ever,” Gaetz claimed on March 30 that the allegations are part of an ongoing effort to extort him and his family. “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… I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations,” he said.
Matt Gaetz vows to Tucker Carlson he didn't "travel" with a 17-year-old, but his denial seems pretty specific and carefully worded pic.twitter.com/emGePJeVfV
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 31, 2021
He claimed that his father, former president of the Florida state Senate Donald Gaetz, “has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals.” The former DOJ official Gaetz named is attorney David McGee, who denied any involvement in the investigation or attempts to exort the family to The Washington Post. McGee confirmed that Donald Gaetz had reached out to him to discuss a subject he declined to disclose.
“I have not had a relationship with a 17-year-old,” Gaetz said in his Tucker Carlson Tonight interview. “That is totally false. The allegation is, I read it in the New York Times, is that I’ve traveled with some 17-year-old in some relationship. That is false, and records will bear that out to be false. Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you’re dating who are of legal age is not a crime… People were talking about a minor and that there were pictures of me with child prostitutes. That’s obviously false. There will be no such pictures, because no such thing happened.”
Gaetz reportedly gained a reputation when he arrived at Congress in 2017 for bragging about his sexual exploits, multiple sources told CNN. The sources claim that Gatz allegedly showed photos and videos of nude women he slept with, which he kept on his phone, to other lawmakers (including on the House floor). The sources, allegedly including two people shown the explicit material, told CNN that Gaetz described having sex with the women, as well. It is unclear if these pictures and video are connected to the DOJ investigation.
Gaetz could be charged under the Mann Act, which prohibits bringing anyone across state lines “with intent that such individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.” The investigation opened in 2020 under President Trump’s administration. Gaetz told Axios, “The allegations against me are as searing as they are false. I believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to criminalize my sexual conduct, you know when I was a single guy.”
Here’s what else you need to know about Gaetz:
1. Gaetz Is Also Being Investigated For Paying Women Online For Sex
The DOJ’s investigation is focused on Gaetz’s alleged involvement with “multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments,” The New York Times reported on April 1. Investigators believe that Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Florida who was indicted in 2020 on a federal sex trafficking charge, met the women in question on websites where women go on dates in exchange for gifts and money, according to sources who spoke with the paper. Investigators claim Greenberg introduced the women to Gaetz, who allegedly had sex with them. Gaetz has denied ever paying a woman for sex.
The New York Times claims they reviewed receipts from Cash App and Apple Pay that show money sent to one of the women by Gaetz and Greenberg, and from Greenberg to another woman. Gaetz and Greenberg allegedly told women to meet them at hotels and other locations in Florida throughout 2019 and 2020. One woman told the paper that Gaetz and Greenberg also sometimes paid her in cash.
2. Gaetz Is One Of Congress’ Most Controversial Reps.
The hard right Republican’s attention-seeking antics include wearing a gas mask on the floor of the House in March 2020. He mocked what he believed was an overreaction to the growing COVID-19 pandemic during a hearing about funding the public health battle. He remained a staunch anti-masker during the deadly coronavirus outbreak, and ending up testing positive for the antibodies on Nov. 3, 2020.
Gaetz incorrectly claimed that it was Antifa members and not all Trump supporters who laid siege on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He declared, “Some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters. They were masquerading as Trump supporters and in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group Antifa,” to rounds of “boo’s” during a speech on the House floor early the following morning. Gaetz was flagged by Twitter for “glorifying violence” following an outrageous June 1, 2020 tweet amid the nationwide George Floyd police protests by writing, “Now that we clearly see Antifa as terrorists, can we hunt them down like we do those in the Middle East?”
Gaetz has represented Florida’s 1st congressional district since 2016, and has been reelected twice since. He is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and sits on the following committees: Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, Committee on the Budget, Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law. He has not been removed from any committees since news broke of his DOJ investigation.
3. He Voted No On A Bill Combatting Human Trafficking
Gaetz was the only Rep. who voted “no” on the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act in 2017. The bill allocates additional government resources to combat human trafficking in the United States. Gaetz said on Facebook Live that he opposed the bill because it represented “mission creep” of federal government. “Unless there is an overwhelming, compelling reason that our existing agencies in the federal government can’t handle that problem, I vote no because voters in Northwest Florida did not send me to Washington to go and create more federal government,” Gaetz said.
4. He’s A Staunch Supporter Of Donald Trump
Gaetz has alienated himself from Congressional colleagues for his fervent Trump support. Throughout Trump’s presidency, Gaetz was constantly featured on Fox News and OAN parroting Trump’s rhetoric. When Trump called Haiti a “sh*thole country” in 2018, Gaetz backed him up by tweeting, “The conditions in Haiti are deplorable, they are disgusting. I mean, everywhere you look in Haiti, it’s sheet metal and garbage.” Gaetz was so loyal to Trump that he even said he’d resign his House seat to represent Trump in his second impeachment trial if asked to join his legal team.
5. Gaetz Is Part Of The #FreeBritney Movement
Britney Spears found a very unlikely ally in Gaetz. The congressman asked in March that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) host a televised inquiry into the due process of conservatorships, and specifically mentioned the “Toxic” singer in his letter. In his letter, Gaetz brought up many points of contention that appeared in the documentary Framing Britney Spears, including how her father came about having control — and keeping it — over Britney’s life via the conservatorship.
“The facts and circumstancing giving rise to this arrangement remain in dispute but involve questionable motives and legal tactics by her father and now-conservator, Jamie Spears,” he wrote. Gaetz later tweeted on Mar. 9 that “I think @britneyspears would be a great witness in the House Judiciary Committee. She would likely have a lot to say on conservatorships. #FreeBritney”