Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him, The New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing three people briefed on the matter.
If Gaetz paid for a 17-year-old he was engaged with sexually to travel with him, it could constitute a violation of federal sex trafficking laws.
The investigation into Gaetz, who made a name for himself in Congress as a media-savvy defender of former President Trump, opened in the final months of Trump’s time in office and is reportedly part of a larger investigation into a Florida official and ally named Joel Greenberg, who was charged with sex trafficking last summer. Prosecutors said that in 2017 Greenberg “recruited” a girl between 14 and 17 and “solicited” her for sex in exchange for favors. The Times notes that it is unclear how Gaetz became involved in the investigation.
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What is clear is that Gaetz and Greenberg were acquainted — at least. Greenberg posted a photo of himself, Gaetz, and Trump ally Roger Stone to Twitter in July 2017, during the time period prosecutors said Greenberg was recruiting the minor in question for sex. Great catching up with @mattgaetz and @RogerJStoneJr,” the caption read.
Later that year, Gaetz was the only member of Congress to vote against a bill that would have created an anti-human trafficking committee within the Department of Transportation. In a Facebook Live video defending the vote, Gaetz described the bill as federal “mission creep,” noting that “voters in Northwest Florida did not send me to Washington to go and create more federal government.”
Gaetz told the Times that his lawyers informed him that he is not the target of the investigation, only one of its subjects. “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.”
In an interview with Axios, Gaetz said the allegations against him are “as searing as they are false,” and 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.” Gaetz added that he “paid for flights, for hotel rooms” for women he dated when he was single, and that he was “absolutely” confident none of them were minors.
Gaetz’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Rolling Stone.
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