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Rep. Gaetz Denies Allegation, Claims He's Victim Of Extortion Plot

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., has confirmed he is being investigated by the Justice Department, but denied the allegations tied to the inquiry.
John Raoux
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., has confirmed he is being investigated by the Justice Department, but denied the allegations tied to the inquiry.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a controversial conservative and boisterous ally of former President Donald Trump, on Tuesday confirmed he is being investigated by the Department of Justice for sexual misconduct but denied the allegations tied to the probe.

The New York Times first reported Tuesday that Gaetz, 38, 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, possibly violating federal sex trafficking laws.

The Times story cited three unnamed sources familiar with the probe. NPR has not independently confirmed the investigation. The DOJ declined to comment.

The Times reports that the probe first began in the waning days of the Trump administration, and that the investigation is part of a broader look into an ally of Gaetz's named Joel Greenberg, a former Florida county official who was indicted on charges including sex trafficking of a child.

Greenberg has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

"The allegations against me are as searing as they are false," Gaetz, who represents Florida's 1st Congressional District, told Axios. "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 alleges the investigation is connected to an attempt to extort him and his family by a former DOJ official. That ex-official has sought $25 million, Gaetz says.

"I know that there was a demand for money in exchange for a commitment that he [the former DOJ official] could make this investigation go away," Gaetz told Fox News' Tucker Carlson during an interview Tuesday night.

Gaetz told Carlson that his family had been cooperating with the FBI regarding the extortion attempt, and that his father had even worn a wire.

In order to clear his name, Gaetz called on the FBI and DOJ to immediately release the wired conversations between the former DOJ official and Gaetz's father.

The Republican congressman is a controversial figure. He helped organize efforts to challenge President Biden's Electoral College win in Congress, and following the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, Gaetz alleged on the House floor that antifa members were among the rioters.

Shortly after the insurrection, the FBI directly refuted the notion, saying there is "no indication" that antifa was involved.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.
Ben Swasey is a deputy editor on the Washington Desk, covering politics and voting.