Inquiry into Rep. Matt Gaetz linked to larger investigation into former Florida official, and Gaetz ally, indicted on child sex trafficking charges, report says

By Azmi Haroun

On Tuesday, an explosive report from The New York Times revealed that Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is under federal investigation for potentially violating federal sex trafficking laws.

The Times writes, citing three sources, that the Department of Justice is looking into "whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him." The investigation was opened by the Department of Justice in the final months of former President Donald Trump's administration, according to The Times.

The investigation into Gaetz stems from a broader investigation into former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, one of Gaetz's political allies in Florida, the sources told The Times.

In August 2020, Greenberg was indicted on fourteen counts, including sex trafficking charges related to a minor between the age of 14 and 17. According to the Orlando Sentinel, prosecutors allege that Greenberg used his access as an elected official to seek information on women via the Florida Driver and Vehicle Information Database and engage relationships with them. 

Greenberg has denied all allegations and charges, and his trial is set for mid-June.

Greenberg and Gaetz have been pictured at several political events together, including at the White House during the Trump administration in 2019.

The New York Times report added that several top Justice Department officials were briefed on the Gaetz investigation during the last months of the Trump presidency. Gaetz has not faced any charges in the investigation.

After the news broke, Gaetz initially responded on Twitter, lobbing a series of accusations towards federal authorities, and denying any wrongdoing.

In a statement sent to Insider, Gaetz's office said: "Over the past several weeks, my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name. We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI's direction to catch these criminals," Gaetz added, confirming the investigation.

"The planted leak to the New York Times tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations," Gaetz said in the statement.