Just because Gaetz’s story is really, really weird doesn’t mean it’s not true.
His father’s willingness to vouch for his claim, that he’s being extorted in connection with a DOJ investigation into his activities with women, isn’t surprising. Parents will do anything for their kids. But Don Gaetz isn’t just saying that Matt’s telling the truth. He has documentary evidence from the FBI confirming that he’s cooperating with the bureau in some capacity.
The lingering question: Why is/was Matt Gaetz being investigated in the first place? The fact that someone might be looking for a bribe to make that probe go away tells us nothing about why it exists to begin with.
“The FBI asked me to try and get that information for Matt and an indication we would transfer money to Mr. David McGee,” Don Gaetz said in an interview late Tuesday, without specifying what information he was referring to…
Don Gaetz said in the interview he wore a wire during a meeting earlier this month with McGee and said he was set to meet Wednesday with Stephen Alford, a local developer who he said is also part of the alleged extortion scheme. During that meeting, Don Gaetz said, he was again set to wear a wire and try to get Alford to talk about payments he allegedly was to make to McGee, but the meeting fell apart when news broke that his son was being investigated by the Justice Department. Alford did not respond to text messages seeking comment…
“I said to the FBI ‘I’m willing to wear a wire and be cooperative,’ but I was asked to say things that are not true to draw out an admission,” Don Gaetz said in the interview. “I wanted there to be an understanding committed in writing that I’m working for the FBI and at their request, not operating on my own.”
Don Gaetz shared emails with Politico between his lawyer and a local assistant U.S. Attorney, who wrote, “I can confirm that your client is working with my office as well as the FBI at the government’s request in order to determine if a federal crime has been committed… This has been discussed with, and approved by, the FBI as well as leadership in my office and components of main justice.” Note that there’s nothing about extortion in there; it’s unclear which federal crime the DOJ is looking at with Don Gaetz’s help. But both father and son insist that there’s been some sort of blackmail attempt involving lawyer David McGee, who used to lead the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Task Force. Matt Gaetz also shared documentary evidence of his own last night with Axios, including “screenshots of text messages, emails and documents outlining the alleged extortion scheme, which he claimed was being run by a former DOJ employee.” (Axios didn’t elaborate on the contents.)
But how would McGee, who’s now in private practice, have any influence over a pending probe at the Justice Department? What sort of strings could he conceivably pull from outside to torpedo a federal investigation into, of all things, possible sex trafficking of a minor?
And what’s left of the extortion probe now that Gaetz, in a panic over having his reputation ruined, has hurriedly revealed its existence? What if Don Gaetz’s meeting with Alford described in the excerpt was expected to secure some important evidence and now all the players in the scheme have clammed up for good?
My thought yesterday when the news broke was that, if Gaetz is telling the truth about extortion, he must have refused to pay the hush money which in turn triggered the blackmailers to leak the news about his sex probe to the Times. But if that’s the case, that Matt had told the extorters “no,” why was Don Gaetz still scheduled to meet with Alford today?
It bears reminding that the investigation into Gaetz and his activities with women isn’t new. Per the WSJ, it began last summer while Trump was still president, when senior DOJ officials were told about it. Politico claims Bill Barr was briefed more than once and told Florida prosecutors to do whatever they needed to pursue it. Apparently Barr once even canceled a meeting with members of the House Judiciary Committee because he didn’t want to be seen talking with Gaetz, a committee member, behind closed doors while the probe was ongoing. It remains unclear how the probe originated, but the Times reported yesterday that it had to do somehow with a separate federal probe into a local Florida official named Joel Greenberg. WaPo described part of the case against him this way:
Investigators said they found several fake IDs inside Greenberg’s home and accused the tax collector of improperly accessing a state database to access personal information of people he was in “sugar daddy” relationships with, including a minor victim between the ages of 14 and 17. Greenberg allegedly made the fake IDs to help “facilitate his efforts to engage in commercial sex acts,” according to the indictment.
Gaetz, meanwhile, told Axios last night, “I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I’ve dated. You know, I’ve paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not.” Pure speculation: Did Greenberg say to Gaetz, “I know a girl you’ll want to meet but you need to pay her airfare to D.C.,” and it turned out later she was 17? Would it matter for federal statutory purposes if Gaetz didn’t know she was underaged? And can it really qualify as “sex trafficking” if Gaetz paid her way but didn’t pay her or Greenberg money in exchange for sex? Read Elizabeth Nolan Brown on that point, as it’s important. If it’s not “commercial sex,” i.e. a quid pro quo exchanging money for pleasure, then it’s not trafficking. It might be a violation of the Mann Act, which prohibits bringing minors across state lines for illegal sexual activity (i.e. statutory rape), but that’s a different offense.
Still enough to end Gaetz’s career, though, if it’s true. I’ll leave you with Kevin McCarthy assuring Fox viewers that Gaetz will be booted from committees if the allegations bear out. Uh, wouldn’t he also be going to prison in that scenario? Of course he’ll be off his committees.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on reported DOJ investigation into allegations of sex trafficking against Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL):
“If it comes out to be true, yes we would remove him … let’s get all the information.” pic.twitter.com/AJpaY4YMuy
— The Recount (@therecount) March 31, 2021