For a while, Matt Gaetz was just another interchangeable MAGA congressman looking to ally himself with Donald Trump. People immersed in Florida politics knew more about him – the family money, the multiple DUIs, the shady associations – but nationally, I don’t think people paid close attention to him until the absolutely bonkers story about Nestor, a now-20-year-old Cuban man whom Gaetz claims is his “adopted son.” Gaetz did not adopt Nestor, but Gaetz possibly groomed Nestor from a young age, and Nestor now lives with him. It’s… a lot. And as it turns out, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Gaetz is currently under federal investigation for human trafficking and sexual abuse of a teenage girl.
Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter. Investigators are examining whether Mr. 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.
It was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing, according to two of the people.
The investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William P. Barr, the two people said. Given Mr. Gaetz’s national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including some appointed by Mr. Trump — were notified of the investigation, the people said.
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. Mr. Greenberg, who has since resigned his post as tax collector in Seminole County, north of Orlando, visited the White House with Mr. Gaetz in 2019, according to a photograph that Mr. Greenberg posted on Twitter.
No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear. Mr. Gaetz said in an interview that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that they were told he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. “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.” Mr. Gaetz claimed the disclosure of the sex trafficking inquiry was intended to thwart an investigation into the extortion plot.
What began happening yesterday evening and throughout the night was something of a feeding frenzy of gossip, offensively bad takes and actual criminal conspiracy. There were conservatives arguing that well actually it’s not really *that* wrong to transport teenagers across state lines to have sex with them in exchange for money. Which is a hell of an argument to make. It’s also worth noting that Gaetz was the lone vote against a federal anti-human trafficking bill a few years ago too – so clearly, this is a long-held belief, that he should be able to traffic minors for sexual abuse and statutory rape.
Gaetz tweeted out some accusations about how HE is the victim of an attempted extortion scheme involving DOJ officials. That story makes zero sense. He also tried to pull something when he appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show and even Tucker did not have his back (which surprised me, I’ll be honest). Gaetz even tries to rope Tucker’s wife into it. Tucker called this “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”
— Joel Greenberg (@JoelGreenbergTC) July 9, 2017
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, social media.