The Justice Department is investigating allegations that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and violated federal sex trafficking laws in the process, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
According to the Times, the probe into Gaetz was launched under Trump’s Attorney General William Barr in the final days of the former President’s term in office. Senior DOJ officials, including some Trump appointees, were briefed on the investigation given the nature of the allegation against the Florida Republican, the report said.
Gaetz’s multiple encounters with the 17-year-old girl reportedly took place two years ago, and investigators are determining he paid for her to cross state lines, which is a clear violation of federal sex trafficking laws.
“I believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to criminalize my sexual conduct, you know when I was a single guy,” Gaetz told Axios in a phone interview.
He went on to say, “The allegations of sexual misconduct against me are false” and “They are rooted in an extortion effort against my family for $25 million… in exchange for making this case go away.”
The DOJ inquiry, led by new AG Merrick Garland, is part of a larger investigation into Joel Greenberg, a local Florida official associated with Gaetz who was charged last year with “14 felony counts related to allegations that he stalked a political opponent, used a state database to create fake IDs, and sex trafficked a minor between the ages of 14 and 17,” according to reports.
Gaetz said earlier on Tuesday that he was considering dropping out of Congress in favor of an “early retirement” to take a contributor role with conservative media outlet NewsMax.
This story is developing.