On Monday Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz said that he is being investigated by the Justice Department over a former relationship but denied any criminal wrongdoing.
Western Florida Representative told Axios that his lawyers were informed that he was the subject of an investigation “regarding sexual conduct with women” but that he was not a target of the probe. He denied that he ever had a relationship with any underage girls and said the allegations against him were “as searing as they are false.”
A subject is conventionally thought of as someone whose actions fall within the scope of a criminal investigation, whereas a target is someone whom prosecutors have gathered evidence linking to a crime. But during the course of an investigation, a subject can become a target.
Exclusive: Bob Kent, a key figure in the Rep. Matt Gaetz extortion claim, responds saying he never threatened or made demands when he met with the embattled congressman’s father. https://t.co/6mxO3RJeD4 pic.twitter.com/zCiwLKpNbp
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) April 6, 2021
In the clip, Kent is heard saying that he didn’t actually know anything about an FBI investigation; he was just repeating rumors and gossip that he had heard.
The Daily Beast reported, “Bob Kent, the key figure in the Matt Gaetz extortion allegations, claims to CNN that he didn’t actually know the feds were investigating Gaetz. “I don’t have any information on a federal investigation. Those were just rumors that were circulating.”
The Hill reported on Gossip Queen of Daytime Talk, Meghan McCain. She is also circulating gossip and rumors, even admitting there is no evidence, no data, and possibly no probe. Still, she wants Gaetz removed from office over it all, and quickly before anyone gets a chance to investigate.
Most seriously, he is being investigated by the Justice Department for allegedly having sex with a 17-year-old girl, and for paying for her to travel with him across state lines, potentially violating federal sex-trafficking laws.
Gaetz denies the allegations — but not the fact of the investigation.
Then, on Thursday, CNN alleged that he had shown fellow lawmakers nude photos of women he said he’d slept with, including one photographed wearing a hula hoop, and nothing else.
There have also been claims by two of Gaetz’s enemies that the FBI has photos of him in a “sexual orgy with underage prostitutes.”
News of the sex-trafficking investigation, launched in the final months of the last administration, broke Tuesday in The New York Times.
Rep. Matt Gaetz is engaged to Harvard business school student Ginger Luckey.
The Pensacola bachelor, 38 — whose engagement to Harvard business school student Ginger Luckey, 26, was announced on Twitter by Fox’s Jeanine Pirro in December — immediately denied he had sex with a minor or transported one across state lines.
“In the strongest possible terms. I deny that I have ever been with someone underage,” he told The Post on Tuesday.
“That is false,” he insisted.
But Gaetz had only raised more eyebrows when he conceded to the Times that some of his past “generosity” toward former gal pals may be coming back to haunt him.
“I only know that it has to do with women,” he told the paper, when asked what he knew about the ¬investigation.
“I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”
Soon, a new squall of headlines — these involving underage sex trafficking victims, an orgy, and a $25 million extortion plot — showed just how much more untoward things could get.
Just hours after the Times story broke, Gaetz did an interview on Fox News with Tucker Carlson.
He was there on camera, ostensibly, to clear things up.
Instead, Gaetz wove a twisty tale that cast himself and his father, Don, a wealthy former Florida politician, as the heroic victims of a massive blackmail plot.
“What is happening,” he told Carlson of the DOJ leak to the Times, “is an extortion of me and my family involving a former Department of Justice official.”
That ex-official, the villain of his purported extortion plot, is attorney David McGee, a former Florida federal prosecutor, Gaetz alleged.
“On March 16, my father got a text message demanding a meeting,” Gaetz said. “Wherein a person demanded $25 million in exchange for making horrible sex-trafficking allegations against me go away,” he told Carlson.
He and his father reached out to the feds, “and the FBI and the Department of Justice were so concerned about this attempted extortion of a member of Congress that they asked my dad to wear a wire,” Gaetz told Carlson.
The feds must release the resulting audio tape, he told Carlson, claiming it will prove his innocence and reveal “a plot to bleed my family out of money.”
McGee leaked the DOJ sex-traffic investigation to the Times when the extortion plot fell through, Gaetz concluded in the shocking interview.
Then there’s the Iranian hostage angle.
McGee and ex-Air Force intelligence officer Bob Kent didn’t want the money for themselves, necessarily, Gaetz is alleging.
They wanted to use the money to free Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent taken hostage by Iran in 2007, and declared dead by his family last year.
Oh, and about those sex-trafficking allegations?
“Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you’re dating who are of legal age is not a crime,” Gaetz told Carlson, a denial that may have done less in the way of clearing his name than he intended.
His comments came shortly after the New York Times reported that Gaetz was under investigation by the Justice Department to determine if he violated federal sex trafficking laws and had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, while paying her to travel with him.
Gaetz alleged that the allegations were part of an extortion plot by a former Justice Department official, whom he did not name.
“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,” Gaetz said in a statement.
Gaetz said his family has been cooperating with the FBI and said his father was wearing a recording device, at the FBI’s direction, “to catch these criminals.” He demanded the Justice Department release the recordings.
“No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation,” he said.
The Times cited three people familiar with the matter, saying the scrutiny was part of a broader Justice Department probe into one of his political allies and fellow Florida politician, Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on sex trafficking and other charges that he stalked a political opponent. A judge ordered the former tax collector back to jail earlier this month for violating the conditions of his release.
“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,” Gaetz told Axios.
“I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I’ve dated,” Gaetz said. “You know, I’ve paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not.”
The Justice Department did not provide any statement yet regarding this allegation since Gaetz has not been charged with a crime.