Technically, no one suggested he did, but nevertheless Donald Trump felt compelled to respond to the New York Times and ABC reports. In a statement released to the media, Trump insisted that Matt Gaetz never personally approached him for a pardon, “blanket” or otherwise. Trump also reminded everyone that Gaetz insists he didn’t do anything wrong in the first place:
Former President Trump on Wednesday denied that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) directly asked him for a blanket pardon, and appeared to defend the congressman amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” Trump said in a statement. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Gaetz asked White House officials for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and other congressional allies of Trump. The Times noted that it was not clear whether Gaetz directly addressed the matter with Trump, though aides were said to have relayed the request.
Gaetz — one of the former president’s most vocal allies in Congress — is reportedly the subject of a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into an alleged inappropriate relationship with a minor and a possible violation of sex trafficking laws.
While this sounds like a denial, it’s not quite on point. The stories from the NYT and ABC reported that Gaetz had “privately” approached the White House, not Trump himself. The NYT’s sources didn’t provide much detail on how much Trump really knew about the request, but ABC’s were more categorical on Trump’s rejection of the idea.
Still, Trump’s statement is interesting in one aspect. Some other reporting has suggested that Gaetz has become a bit persona non grata within TrumpWorld. Politico reported yesterday that Gaetz had gone fully under the bus:
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) built a public profile as an unapologetic, unambiguous, omnipresent booster of President Donald Trump.
But as his own political career skids toward disaster amid allegations that he had sex with a minor and paid for sex with women of legal age, neither Trump nor anyone in the ex-president’s orbit is rushing to Gaetz’s defense. A group that often instinctively decries any such charge as part of some nefarious, coordinated witch hunt from deep-state operators has, instead, said virtually nothing at all.
“Not a lot of people are surprised,” said one person involved in Trump’s post-presidential operations.
In the days since news broke that the Department of Justice was looking into whether Gaetz had violated sex trafficking laws — an allegation he denies — no Trump aide or family member has tweeted about the Florida congressman. Nor have almost any of the most prominent Trump surrogates or Trump-allied conservatives and media personalities, including Sean Hannity, Dan Bongino, Charlie Kirk or American Conservative Union Chair Matt Schlapp, at whose annual CPAC conference Gaetz had recently appeared.
Perhaps a more obvious explanation should be considered — that people don’t want to get out front of a story they can’t verify or refute. Why jump on a political grenade for Gaetz unless you know for sure it’s a dud? With Trump weighing in on Gaetz’ defense, or at least in defense of skepticism while evidence has yet to emerge, that explanation makes a lot more sense than MAGAWorld throwing one of its own under a bus on the word of the New York Times.
In the meantime, Trump’s advice seems pretty wise in this instance. Don’t jump to conclusions without seeing the evidence, especially in the current media environment. That doesn’t require disbelief or a knee-jerk defense, but simply a healthy level of skepticism until specific evidence emerges one way or the other.