Rep. Matt Gaetz is facing legal jeopardy after being implicated in a sex scandal that is gathering steam; he has insisted he will not quit Congress, while denying lurid accusations levelled against him by ‘political enemies’.
“No, I am absolutely not resigning,” the Trump ally wrote in a column for the Washington Examiner, published on Monday.
The Biden Justice Department is set on hunting down MAGA, not investigating crimes.— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) April 5, 2021
Former Gaetz staffer and U.S. Air Force veteran Capt. Nathan Nelson was tracked down by the FBI to follow up on false media rumors. https://t.co/10u7q5zTVr
The embattled Florida Republican has responded to the barrage of “false accusations” from Democrats, news organisations and others lambasting his political foes for “just repeating false allegations about a congressman who loathes the swamp and fights both sides of it on a daily basis”.
“Since I'm taking my turn under the gun, let me address the allegations against me directly. First, I have never, ever paid for sex. And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old,” wrote the politician, who has been engaged since New Year’s Eve.
He added that while his prior lifestyle might have been different, “it was not and is not illegal.”
Gaetz, who has not been charged with any crimes, levelled scathing criticism at "partisan crooks in Merrick Garland’s Justice Department".
He added, however, that he would hardly be surprised if his "feckless colleagues in Congress" called for him to resign.
Addressing reports that the Justice Department investigation into him had started last year under former Attorney General William Barr, during the presidency of Donald Trump, he wrote:
“The Biden Justice Department would rather investigate me for adult, consensual sex than for his shady business dealings, than others for illegal leaks, or a former Justice Department official for the evident extortion of a congressman. Go figure.”
As he denounced those who were attempting to derail his career, Matt Gaetz wrote in the article:
“Washington scandal cycles are predictable, and sex is especially potent in politics. Let me first remind everyone that I am a representative in Congress, not a monk, and certainly not a criminal.”
‘Fabricated Attempt to Discredit’
On the same day as Gaetz fended off allegations in a column for the Washington Examiner, a former staffer for the Republican held a press conference to address media speculation he had been aware of allegations the Florida congressman engaged in illegal activity.
WATCH LIVE: U.S. Air Force veteran and former Gaetz staffer Capt. Nathan Nelson exposes recent encounter with FBI Agentshttps://t.co/byvZ5HJ4qd— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) April 5, 2021
“I’m here this morning to state that nothing could be farther from the truth. Neither I nor any other member of Congressman Gaetz’s staff had any knowledge of illegal activities,” said Nelson on 5 April at his home in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.
The rumours had resulted in the military adviser, who left Gaetz’s office in October last year, being questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) last week.
Nelson added he had planned to resign from his position before the investigation became public knowledge.
“This baseless claim against me leaves me further convinced that the allegations against Congressman Gaetz are likewise fabricated and an attempt to discredit a vocal conservative,” Nelson concluded.
The 38-year-old Gaetz, widely considered to be a leading face of a new generation of Republican politicians, has been under fire since a bout of reports last week revealed he was under federal investigation for possible sex crimes.
The New York Times reported in late March that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) had launched a probe into Matt Gaetz's alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, paying her to travel with him.
The probe was part of a larger investigation into former Florida county tax collector Joel Greenberg, who was accused of sex trafficking.
The politician vehemently rejected the allegations against him, claiming that he and his family were victims of an extortion plot concocted by a former DoJ employee.
Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organised criminal extortion involving a former DoJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name.— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) March 30, 2021
We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter...
As what has been dubbed ‘Gaetz-Gate’ in the media gained traction, a succession of other allegations have surfaced, suggested he was involved in a sex competition game that allegedly targeted different female Capitol lawmakers and workers.
Colleagues were ostensibly shown pictures and videos of nude women Gaetz claimed to have sex with, according to recent media reports.
The accusations have prompted Democrats to call for an ethics investigation, while fellow Republicans have reportedly vowed to urge Matt Gaetz to resign if he is indicted.