Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has been the subject of an inquiry by the US Department of Justice into whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him. Three people who had been briefed on the matter told the New York Times that investigators are examining whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said.
A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.
The three people said that the examination of Mr. Gaetz, 38, is part of a broader investigation into a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.
Gaetz said that his attorneys were told by the Justice Department that Gaetz “was the subject, not the target,” of the investigation. In an interview Tuesday he said:
“I only know that it has to do with women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.
Mr. Gaetz called the investigation part of an elaborate scheme involving “false sex allegations” to extort him and his family for $25 million that began this month. He said he and his father, Don Gaetz, had been cooperating with the F.B.I. and “wearing a wire” after they were approached by people saying they could make the investigation “go away.”
A USDOJ source in Florida with knowledge of the investigation confirmed to RedState that Gaetz’s father wore a wire and that the FBI is investigating the blackmail/extortion scheme.
In a separate interview reported by the New York Times, Gaetz said he wasn’t planning on resigning and denied having a romantic relationship with a minor, adding:
“It is verifiably false that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman.”
Gaetz will be appearing on Tuesday’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to address the issue.