Justice Division investigating Matt Gaetz as a part of broader trafficking probe into one other Florida politician

An individual briefed on the probe confirmed to CNN that federal authorities had been investigating Gaetz as a part of a broader probe into trafficking allegations in opposition to one other Florida politician, an investigation that started within the closing months of the Trump-era Justice Division beneath Legal professional Normal William Barr.

The Occasions reported that investigators had been inspecting whether or not Gaetz violated federal intercourse trafficking legal guidelines, together with whether or not Gaetz had a sexual relationship with the 17-year-old lady and whether or not he paid for her to journey with him. Gaetz has not been charged with any crimes.

Gaetz was searching for a lawyer a number of weeks in the past, approaching at the least one main legal protection agency in Washington, DC, to characterize him, based on an individual aware of the matter.

On Tuesday night, Gaetz mentioned the allegations had been utterly false. He additionally claimed that they stemmed from an extortion plot in opposition to him and his household, saying in an announcement to CNN that “no a part of the allegations in opposition to me are true” and that the claims had been being pushed by people who find themselves targets of an “ongoing extortion investigation.”

“Over the previous a number of weeks my household and I’ve been victims of an organized legal extortion involving a former DOJ official searching for $25 million whereas threatening to smear my identify. We’ve been cooperating with federal authorities on this matter and my father has even been carrying a wire on the FBI’s course to catch these criminals,” Gaetz claimed.

“The planted leak to the New York Occasions tonight was supposed to thwart that investigation. No a part of the allegations in opposition to me are true, and the individuals pushing these lies are targets of the continuing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ instantly launch the tapes, made at their course, which implicate their former colleague in crimes in opposition to me based mostly on false allegations,” Gaetz added.

Pensacola, Florida-based federal prosecutors are inspecting the extortion allegations, based on one supply, which is being dealt with individually from the investigation of Gaetz. The supply didn’t disclose who was being investigated for the extortion.

Gaetz, who was elected to Congress in 2016, is one in every of former President Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders in Congress. He’s a frequent visitor on Fox Information and conservative cable shops, and Axios reported hours earlier than the information broke in regards to the DOJ investigation that he was contemplating leaving Congress for a job at Fox Information’ conservative rival Newsmax.

The allegations prompted at the least one Home Democrat to name for Gaetz to be faraway from the Home Judiciary Committee throughout the investigation. Home Minority Chief Kevin McCarthy mentioned on Fox Information he deliberate to talk to Gaetz Wednesday afternoon, saying if the allegations had been confirmed true, Gaetz must be faraway from the committee.

Federal authorities are investigating Gaetz as a part of a broader probe into Joel Greenberg, the particular person briefed on the probe instructed CNN, a former county official in Central Florida who was arrested final 12 months on prices that embody intercourse trafficking of a minor. Greenberg has pleaded not responsible and is about to go on trial.

Public integrity prosecutors in Washington, DC, and Tampa are overseeing the Gaetz investigation, the particular person added.

Barr “was briefed on the Gaetz investigation a number of instances” earlier than he left workplace, based on a supply aware of the matter. The supply mentioned Barr didn’t object to the investigation. Barr had issued a memo throughout his tenure requiring management be notified of any probes of politically delicate investigations.

The Division of Justice declined to remark. In an announcement to CNN, the FBI in Jacksonville mentioned, “The FBI declines to verify nor deny the existence or standing of an investigation.”

Gaetz claims he is sufferer of extortion

In an interview on Fox Information Tuesday night, Gaetz strongly denied the accusations.

“The particular person would not exist. I’ve not had a relationship with a 17-year-old. That’s completely false. The allegation is, as I learn within the New York Occasions is, I’ve traveled with some 17-year-old in some relationship. That’s false and information will bear that out to be false,” Gaetz mentioned.

Gaetz additionally accused a former Division of Justice prosecutor, David McGee, of making an attempt to extort him and his household over the allegations.

McGee, in an announcement Wednesday, denied that he’s concerned in makes an attempt to extort Gaetz or is related to the DOJ investigation.

“Congressman Matt Gaetz made an allegation on The Tucker Carlson present final evening that David L. McGee, a accomplice within the agency of Beggs & Lane, had tried to extort cash from Gaetz and his household in change for McGee making the investigation in opposition to Congressman Gaetz ‘go away.’ The allegation by the Congressman is each false and defamatory,” McGee’s regulation agency mentioned in an announcement. “Whereas he was with the DOJ he would by no means have entertained a scheme comparable to what Congressman Gaetz suggests nor would he as we speak. Unsubstantiated allegations don’t change that truth.”

The Washington Submit reported Wednesday that Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, was offered with a proposal by two males to assist his son if he donated a sum of cash to fund the hassle to find Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent kidnapped in Iran, it might assist his son’s state of affairs.
Later Wednesday, the Washington Examiner mentioned it had obtained paperwork in Gaetz’s possession purporting to put out the alleged extortion scheme. The paperwork included a textual content message saying the sender might make Gaetz “future authorized and political issues go away” and an unsigned doc titled “undertaking homecoming.” The doc had no markings indicating the creator.

That doc advised the FBI “grew to become conscious of compromising photos” of Gaetz and one other election official concerned with “underage prostitutes” throughout an unrelated investigation into political corruption. It means that Gaetz can mitigate his potential authorized troubles by arranging for the funds wanted to launch Levinson from captivity in Iran.

McGee confirmed to the Submit on Tuesday that he had spoken with Gaetz’s father. He declined to elaborate on their dialog, based on the Submit, however mentioned he welcomed the discharge of any recording of their dialog.

“If there’s a tape, play the tape,” McGee instructed the newspaper. “There may be nothing on that tape that’s untoward. It’s a nice dialog of a dad involved about his son and the difficulty his son was in.”

Don Gaetz’s lawyer Jeffrey Nieman, mentioned in response to CNN’s request for remark, “I’m not commenting right now.”

Democrat requires Gaetz to be faraway from committee

The allegations in opposition to Gaetz prompted one Home Democrat, Rep. Ted Lieu of California, to name on Gaetz to be faraway from the Home Judiciary Committee pending the end result of the reported investigation.

However Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the highest Republican on the panel, mentioned in an announcement to CNN Wednesday that Gaetz ought to stay on the committee.

“I consider Matt Gaetz. He shouldn’t be faraway from the Judiciary Committee,” Jordan mentioned.

McCarthy mentioned Wednesday on Fox Information there have been “severe implications,” and he would take away him from the Home Judiciary Committee in the event that they had been true. He mentioned that he had not but spoken to Gaetz however deliberate to later Wednesday.

“There was a New York Occasions story that I learn, I have never been capable of speak to Mr. Gaetz but. Mr. Gaetz denies the story. I stay up for speaking to Mr. Gaetz,” McCarthy mentioned at a city corridor occasion in Iowa Wednesday. “I have never heard something from the DOJ or others, however I’ll take care of it if something involves be true.”

The Occasions reported Tuesday that it was not clear how Gaetz met the 17-year-old lady, however that federal investigators had been inspecting encounters that allegedly came about about two years in the past, based on two of their sources.

Gaetz instructed the newspaper in an interview that his attorneys had been in touch with the Justice Division. He mentioned they had been instructed he was the topic, not the goal, of an investigation.

“I solely know that it has to do with girls,” Gaetz instructed the Occasions. “I’ve a suspicion that somebody is attempting to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as one thing extra untoward.”

The investigation into Greenberg, a former Seminole County, Florida, tax collector, resulted in an indictment final June on allegations of elaborate schemes in opposition to a political opponent and making pretend IDs. He now faces 12 counts, together with one cost for intercourse trafficking a baby between 14 and 17 years previous, although allegations particulars there obtainable in courtroom information are scant.

The majority of his present prices revolve round accusations Greenberg stalked and harassed a political opponent who labored at a faculty, by attempting to falsely body the particular person as a white supremacist and youngster abuser, on a pretend Twitter account he allegedly arrange utilizing the particular person’s identify and {photograph} and in 9 letters he mailed to the varsity the place he posed as an nameless scholar.

He’s additionally accused of constructing pretend driver’s licenses. He has pleaded not responsible and is in jail pending his trial, after he broke his bail phrases earlier in March.

New legal prices had been made public Wednesday in opposition to Greenberg associated to his enterprise ventures and actions whereas serving as tax collector. Greenberg now’s accused of sending funds to a Small Enterprise Administration worker and submitting false claims to assist two dormant corporations he managed obtain greater than $100,000 every in coronavirus pandemic catastrophe mortgage funds, based on the most recent indictment from March 30 and made public on Wednesday.

He additionally faces a brand new wire fraud allegation, for utilizing cash from the tax assortment workplace he ran to buy Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant memorabilia and to run a cryptocurrency companies.

Fritz Scheller, Greenberg’s lawyer, mentioned he couldn’t remark.

This story and headline have been up to date with extra reporting Wednesday.

CNN’s Paula Reid, Glen Dacy, Kristin Wilson and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.

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