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matt gaetz interview

Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, was the subject of an investigation launched in the final months of the Trump administration by Attorney General William P. Barr.

Matt Gaetz Is Supposed to Face a Justice Department Investigation Into Sex With an Underage Girl.

According to people briefed on the matter, an investigation into the Florida congressman was launched in the final months of the Trump administration.

According to three people briefed on the matter, Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida and a close friend of former President Donald J. Trump, is under investigation by the Justice Department for having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paying for her to fly with him.

According to the people, investigators are looking into whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws. Inducing anyone under the age of 18 to travel across state lines to participate in sex in exchange for money or anything of value is unlawful under a number of federal statutes. The Justice Department prosecutes such cases on a daily basis, and criminals often face harsh penalties.

It was unclear how Mr. Gaetz met the kid, who was assumed to be 17 at the time of the encounters around two years ago, according to two of the people.

The two people said the investigation was conducted in the final months of the Trump administration by Attorney General William P. Barr. Due to Mr. Gaetz’s national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including those named by Mr. Trump — were aware of the investigation, according to the people.

According to the three people, Mr. Gaetz, 38, is being investigated as part of a larger inquiry into a political associate of his, Joel Greenberg, a local official in Florida who was arrested last summer on a number of charges, including child sex trafficking and financially helping people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.

Mr. Greenberg, who has since resigned as tax collector in Seminole County, north of Orlando, reportedly visited the White House with Mr. Gaetz in 2019, according to a photograph posted on Twitter by Mr. Greenberg.

Mr. Gaetz has not been charged, and the extent of his criminal responsibility is uncertain.

Mr. Gaetz claimed in an interview that his attorneys had met with the Justice Department and were advised that he was the subject of an investigation, not the target. “All I know is that it involves women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I’m suspicious that someone is seeking to reclassify my generosity toward ex-girlfriends as something more heinous.”

Mr. Gaetz described the investigation as part of a sophisticated scheme involving “false rape claims” aimed at extorting him and his family for $25 million that started earlier this month. He said that he and his father, Don Gaetz, were cooperating with the FBI and “wearing a wire” after being approached by individuals offering to make the investigation “go away.” Mr. Gaetz asserted that exposing the sex trafficking investigation was done to undermine an investigation into the extortion plot.

Later Tuesday, in a second interview, the congressman claimed that he had no intention of resigning his House seat and denied any romantic relationships with minors. “It is demonstrably false that I traveled with a seventeen-year-old female,” he said.

Representatives from the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as a spokesperson for the United States Attorney’s office in Central Florida, declined to comment.

Mr. Greenberg entered a not guilty plea last year and was arrested this month for breaching his bail conditions. He is set to stand trial in Orlando in June.

Mr. Gaetz, a regular guest on Fox News and other conservative media outlets, has recently discussed leaving public office and taking a full-time job with the conservative television network Newsmax or another network with confidants, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Mr. Gaetz was first claimed to be considering resigning from Congress by Axios on Tuesday.

According to a review of court documents, social media messages, and far-right blogs, Mr. Greenberg retained links to controversial figures who backed Mr. Trump. A website run by a member of the far-right party the Proud Boys and a network of fictional social media accounts connected to Mr. Trump’s long-time political advisor Roger J. Stone Jr. promoted false allegations against Mr. Greenberg’s rivals, similar to the rumors that Mr. Greenberg was accused of secretly spreading.

Mr. Greenberg’s relationship with either Mr. Gaetz or Mr. Stone was unclear. In 2017, he tweeted a selfie with both, writing, “Great catching up.” Mr. Gaetz showed support for Mr. Greenberg’s successful bid for local office the next year, promising that he will one day make an outstanding member of Congress.

Mr. Gaetz has embraced the part of the left’s villain as often as he has acted as one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest supporters and enablers on Capitol Hill, often with dramatic flair. He wore a gas mask on the House floor last year during the pandemic’s early days, insisting he was showing concern for public safety despite allegations he was mocking the coronavirus’s severity.

Mr. Gaetz was elected to Congress for the first time in 2016. As a member of the Florida State Legislature and the scion of a Republican political dynasty, he initially supported former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the Republican presidential primary that year before deciding to support Mr. Trump.

It was profitable. He was elected to Congress to serve a portion of the Florida Panhandle, and his popularity skyrocketed as one of Mr. Trump’s most flamboyant supporters on Capitol Hill and on cable television.

Mr. Gaetz was one of the Republicans who invaded secure rooms to temporarily interrupt President Donald J. Trump’s first impeachment investigation.

Mr. Gaetz was one of the Republicans who invaded secure rooms to temporarily interrupt President Donald J. Trump’s first impeachment investigation.

The New York Times/Erin SchaffMr. Gaetz welcomed a right-wing Holocaust denier to the 2018 State of the Union address and attended an event last year at which he said the Proud Boys had protection, though he has since distanced himself from the party on his podcast. When Democrats tried to impeach Mr. Trump for the first time in 2019, Mr. Gaetz and a phalanx of Republicans accompanied him into the House Intelligence Committee’s safe rooms, temporarily halting the investigation into the president.

Mr. Gaetz returned to Mr. Trump’s side after his loss last year, defending the president’s false accusations of systemic election fraud. Mr. Gaetz assisted in organizing congressional attempts to contest President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s win during Congress’s certification of it on Jan. 6, which was delayed for hours by a pro-Trump crowd storming the Capitol. Mr. Gaetz later traveled to Wyoming to address a rally in opposition to Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican leader who voted to impeach Mr. Trump for causing the riot.

Mr. Gaetz was the only member of Congress in 2017 to vote against a bill that expanded the federal government’s authority and resources to tackle sex trafficking.

“Northwest Florida voters did not send me to Washington to expand the federal government,” Mr. Gaetz said at the time in a local television interview. “If anything, we should be abolishing a large number of government agencies.”

Mr. Gaetz’s personal life has previously garnered attention. Mr. Gaetz revealed last summer that he had a son, 19-year-old Nestor Galban, though he confirmed that he was not Mr. Galban’s biological father nor had he adopted him. Mr. Galban was 12 years old when they met and had just moved to the United States from Cuba; Mr. Gaetz was dating Mr. Galban’s sister at the time.

Mr. Gaetz told People magazine in June, “He is a part of my family story.” “No aspect of my public service compares to the joy that our family has given me.”

Mr. Gaetz was one of the Republicans who invaded secure rooms to temporarily interrupt President Donald J. Trump’s first impeachment investigation.

Mr. Gaetz is now engaged to Ginger Luckey, a 26-year-old analyst whom he proposed to on Dec. 30 at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago party.

It was unclear how Greenberg case investigators started their investigation of Mr. Gaetz’s actions. Federal prosecutors obtained an indictment against Mr. Greenberg in June, charging him with stalking a political opponent.

Federal authorities confiscated Mr. Greenberg’s phone and laptop around that time, according to court documents. According to court records, they found evidence that Mr. Greenberg, whose job duties included issuing licenses, was fabricating false identity cards for himself and a teenage girl and playing with holograms used on concealed weapons permits.

He was arrested on a sex trafficking charge two months later. Prosecutors allege that between May and November 2017, Mr. Greenberg targeted the teen, who was between the ages of 14 and 17, by “recruiting” and “soliciting” her for sex acts in exchange for unspecified perks or favors.

Mr. Greenberg worked in ads before running successfully for tax collector in Seminole County in 2016 at the age of 31.

Within days of taking office, he dismissed three workers who had endorsed his predecessor and started investing more than $1.5 million in public funds on personal expenditures such as weapons, explosives, body armour, and a drone, as well as computers for his own cryptocurrency company, a county audit later revealed.

Mr. Greenberg then shared a picture of himself on social media with Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing figure with a history of making racist remarks, according to The Orlando Sentinel. Additionally, the newspaper detailed Mr. Greenberg’s own misogynist and anti-Muslim Facebook remarks.

Mr. Greenberg resorted to covert methods to sabotage a potential opponent in late 2019 as part of his re-election campaign, according to court documents. Prosecutors allege that he sent an anonymous letter to a school where one prospective candidate worked, alleging sexual assault with a student and making similar allegations on a fictitious Facebook account.

As the primary race heated up last summer, similar messaging started to surface on spoofed social media pages affiliated with Mr. Stone.

“Watch out Seminole county,” someone called April Goad warned Floridians on Facebook, according to Graphika, a company that specializes in social media analysis.

The post included a link to an article about Mr. Greenberg that had been published on Central Florida Post, a website run by Mr. Stone’s associates and which had previously published positive articles about Mr. Greenberg. The website was created by a member of the Proud Boys who has been connected to security providers for Mr. Stone in the days preceding the Capitol insurrection.

Mr. Greenberg’s re-election campaign fizzled soon after he was arrested last June, and he resigned the next day.

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