On Tuesday night The New York Times reported that Congressman Matt Gaetz is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice concerning the possibility that he had sex with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, which would be a violation of federal sex trafficking laws, among other things. (The investigation was opened last year under Donald Trump–appointed attorney general William Barr.) Obviously this is extremely bad news for the Florida representative, considering that, as the Times notes, “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,” and people found guilty of such crimes “often receive severe sentences.” Even less-great news: Gaetz has seemingly decided to act as his own spokesperson/unofficial defense attorney and is doing an extremely bad job at it.
Let’s start with Tuesday night’s Tucker Carlson interview. Ostensibly meant to give Gaetz an opportunity to clear his name before an extremely sympathetic audience, the thing went off the rails from the get-go, starting with the congressman very specifically saying, “The New York Times is running a story that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman, and that is verifiably false. People can look at my travel records and see that that is not the case.” While it’s true that the Times has indeed reported that part of the investigation concerns potentially transporting a minor across state lines, that aspect is a weird thing to pointedly deny rather than, say, the part about allegedly having sex with a minor. (Also: Calling a 17-year-old a “woman” is definitely a choice.)
Later Gaetz shared this strange anecdote with Carlson: “You and I went to dinner about two years ago. Your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine, you’ll remember her. And she was actually threatened by the FBI, told that if she wouldn’t cop to the fact that somehow I was involved in some pay-for-play scheme that she could face trouble, and so I do believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to smear me.” (Carlson’s response: “I don’t remember the woman you’re speaking of or the context at all, honestly.”)
Gaetz then brought up unreported allegations that there are photos of him “with child prostitutes.”
And of course there was Gaetz’s claim that someone involved in the investigation, whom he named on air, is trying to extort him and his family because he’s an “outspoken conservative.”
Only, according to Katie Benner, one of the reporters who broke the Times story, the individual Gaetz claims is working on the case and trying to blackmail him is not only not currently involved in the investigation, but he doesn’t even work at the DOJ:
Speaking of a supposed plot to extort the Gaetz family: In a series of tweets sent Tuesday night, Gaetz detailed the alleged scheme and claimed that his father has been “wearing a wire” to catch the bad guys:
Except, as many have pointed out, if Gaetz’s father were, in fact, “wearing a wire” to assist a federal investigation, announcing such a thing to all of Twitter would completely derail the operation and is probably the very first thing the FBI says not to do:
In other strange Gaetz commentary, the congressman spoke to Axios and told reporter Jonathan Swan, “I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I’ve dated. 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.” Also hours before the Times story broke, Axios separately reported that Gaetz had “privately told confidants he’s seriously considering not seeking reelection and possibly leaving Congress early,” which seems quite-to-very shady in retrospect. In other potentially relevant Gaetz news, the Times notes that “in 2017, Mr. Gaetz was the only member of Congress to vote against a law that gave the federal government more power and money to fight human trafficking.”
Anyway, stay tuned for more odd, potentially incriminating statements from the congressman that are surely forthcoming!
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