Rep. Matt Gaetz, a staunch supporter of former president Donald Trump’s and a regular face on conservative cable news, is denying allegations of a possible sexual relationship with an underage girl after the New York Times reported Tuesday the Republican member of Congress from Florida was under federal investigation.
Instead, the outspoken and often controversial legislator claimed he was the victim of “an organized criminal extortion” and that his father had been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction “to catch these criminals.”
“No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets […] of the ongoing extortion investigation,” Gaetz wrote in a series of tweets.
The tweets came after the New York Times reported that the 38-year-old lawmaker was under investigation over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him. The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal also reported on the investigation Tuesday night, with the Times and Journal reporting that the Justice Department was examining whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws.
According to the Times, the encounters occurred two years ago, and Gaetz came under scrutiny during the end of the Trump administration as part of another investigation into a Florida official, Joel Greenberg, who has been indicted on charges that included sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex.
Gaetz told the Times his attorneys were in contact with the Justice Department, and that he understood that the investigation “has to do with women.”
“I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward,” he said.
He also told Axios that he was “absolutely” confident that none of his previous relationships have involved underage girls.
Gaetz told the Times and Axios that the investigation was part of an extortion scheme after his family was approached by people to make the investigation “go away.”
Gaetz claimed the extortion scheme was run by a “former DOJ official.”
In tweets, Gaetz demanded that the Department of Justice “release the tapes” involving the alleged extortion investigation.
A representative for Gaetz ignored BuzzFeed News’ questions regarding who the “former DOJ official” is and referred a reporter to Gaetz’s tweets.
Gaetz has been a frequent guest on Fox News, where he has repeatedly pushed false claims of massive voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. As a member of Congress, he’s mocked mask mandates to curb the pandemic. Moments after a violent mob stormed the federal capitol on Jan. 6, Gaetz claimed its members were not Trump supporters but “masquerading as Trump supporters.”
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to questions from BuzzFeed News.
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