Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.
Investigators are examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said. 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. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.
Far less serious legally but more salaciously
Behind the scenes, Gaetz gained a reputation in Congress over his relationships with women and bragging about his sexual escapades to his colleagues, multiple sources told CNN.
Gaetz allegedly showed off to other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with, the sources told CNN, including while on the House floor. The sources, including two people directly shown the material, said Gaetz displayed the images of women on his phone and talked about having sex with them. One of the videos showed a naked woman with a hula hoop, according to one source.
"It was a point of pride," one of the sources said of Gaetz.
These allegedly are "relationships" (plural) and "escapades" (plural) affording the Florida Representative, creating a reputation he did not get overnight.
He has been no wallflower. CNN adds
Gaetz was one of the most vocal backers of Trump's lie after the 2020 election that the election was stolen from him. After 10 Republicans voted to impeach Trump in January, Gaetz personally took up the task of trying to oust the House's GOP conference chair Liz Cheney, the highest-ranking Republican to support impeachment, traveling to Wyoming to hold a rally against Cheney in her home state.
In March 2020, when the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic was not yet clear, Gaetz wore a gas mask on the floor of the House during the first vote on an emergency funding bill for the coronavirus response.
Gaetz was admonished last year by the House Ethics Committee for a tweet threatening Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen ahead of his 2019 testimony before the House Oversight Committee. The committee found the tweet "did not violate witness tampering and obstruction of Congress laws" but did not "reflect creditably" upon the House. The Florida bar also investigated the case and cleared Gaetz. He apologized for the tweet.
Later that year, Gaetz led a band of House Republicans who barged into a closed-door House impeachment inquiry interview, occupying the House Intelligence Committee spaces for several hours in a publicity stunt to protest the investigation that would lead to Trump's first impeachment.
Gaetz has also found himself in hot water over his spending practices. Politico reported last year that Gaetz improperly sent $28,000 to pay an LLC affiliated with a speech-writing consultant. Gaetz's office returned the funds to the House and said it was a "glorified clerical error."
Women he said he had slept with, the sources told CNN, including while on the House floor. You would think that C-Span cameras would have noticed Gaetz sleeping with women on the House floor. It's not a common practice.
Dangling participles aside, it's possible that the sources are lying. But they are saying it. And if they're saying it, either they had said so previously or they had not.
This was not private sexual behavior. If the information were available yet not reported, the news media was negligent or has been corrupted by, presumably, a preference for access journalism. Showing pictures of nude women on the House floor is not part of the orientation for new Representatives. Covering up such behavior, even if it were from a backbencher, would be outrageous.
If the legislators had kept mum, it is a problem of a different nature. It would mean not only that they were aware of these acts, but kept their silence. They were complicit, certainly; but Gaetz would have been at the center of it. And they kept it to themselves. It''s unlikely, though possible, that Democrats were among the group because they would have had a political incentive to blow the whistle on Gaetz.
Thus far, this stuff appears unrelated to the criminal investigation of Matt Gaetz. But it shouldn't take a Justice Department leak about child sex trafficking for us to find about what's going on in the People's House.