“A person in serious legal jeopardy tends to, per their lawyer’s advice, shut up,” Kyle Cheney and Matt Dixon report at Politico. “Matt Gaetz is handling his current problems a little differently.” After The New York Times reported Tuesday night that the Florida Republican is under investigation for potential sex trafficking of a minor, Gaetz, “to the bewilderment of legal experts, made himself unavoidable for comment as the threat to his political career began to metastasize,” Politico reports.
Gaetz jumped on Twitter and spoke with Fox News and other media organizations, alleging a plot by a former Justice Department official to extort $25 million from him family “in exchange for making horrible sex-trafficking allegations against me go away.” He named the former DOJ official as David McGee, who denied extorting Gaetz, and he dated the alleged scheme to March 16, months after the Justice Department reportedly started investigating him.
Not much has been publicly reported about the DOJ’s Gaetz investigation, except that it started late last summer and is tied to the public case against Joel Greenberg, a county tax official charged with sex trafficking a minor and other crimes. “The exact nature of the connection is unclear, but investigators are exploring whether they might have had overlapping and illegal sexual contacts,” The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
One document, purported to be from former Air Force intelligence officer Bob Kent, claims the FBI became aware of “compromising pictures, depicting Congressman Gaetz and an election official involved in a ‘sexual orgy with underage prostitutes'”; that “at least one underage female” told a grand jury “Gaetz has paid her to engage in sexual activities”; and that individuals “facing serious criminal allegations themselves have testified at the grand jury and have agreed to testify against Congressman Gaetz at any future criminal proceedings.”
There is no public evidence any of those details are true. But “legal experts said Gaetz’s strategy was befuddling in part because he has now publicly admitted to a central element of the case against him — that he paid for women to cross state lines — even if he says it was in pursuit of legitimate romantic interests,” Politico says, and because “in his rush to deflect from the news, Gaetz may have damaged any ongoing extortion investigation by exposing it.”