Well, well, well. The plot thickens:
Prosecutors granted immunity to an ex-girlfriend of Representative Matt Gaetz before she testified last week in front of a federal grand jury hearing evidence in the investigation of the congressman, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Gaetz has been under investigation to determine if he violated sex trafficking laws and obstructed justice in that probe. Gaetz has previously denied all wrongdoing, and has said he has never paid for sex nor had sex with an underage girl.
The woman, who CBS News is not naming to protect her privacy, testified in front of a federal grand jury in Orlando last Wednesday. She is viewed as a potential key witness, according to two sources familiar with the investigation. One of the sources said she has information related to the investigation of both the sex trafficking and obstruction allegations.
There could have been a number of reasons why Matt Gaetz’ ex-girlfriend showed up at the federal grand jury probing sex trafficking linked to the congressman’s ally Joel Greenberg. Theoretically, she might have shown up with exonerating or at least mitigating testimony. There are likely much fewer reasons why prosecutors would have granted her immunity in exchange for that testimony, though, and among them would not be attempts to exclude Gaetz from their probe.
Assuming CBS’ source has provided accurate information, it does look like this is game on with Gaetz again. Gaetz has stuck to his denials of having sex with an underage girl, a different individual than the ex-girlfriend who also worked in Gaetz’ office at the time. He hasn’t denied having sex with the unnamed young woman after she turned 18, but there have been questions as to whether he paid for the sex and transported her for that purpose.
The ex-girlfriend reportedly has information about a phone call pertaining to that very issue:
A source told CBS News last week that as a part of an obstruction probe, investigators are looking into whether Gaetz had a phone call with the ex-girlfriend, and another woman, who was already a witness in the federal investigation.
Multiple sources told CBS News that the ex-girlfriend and the other woman traveled to the Bahamas with Gaetz in 2018, along with a third woman with whom Gaetz was in a sexual relationship. That third woman was 18 at the time of the Bahamas trip, but investigators are also looking into whether she was 17 when the sexual relationship began.
NBC’s Marc Caputo reported the same point when the woman testified last week:
Legal sources familiar with the case say Gaetz is being investigated for three distinct crimes: sex trafficking the 17-year-old; violating the Mann Act, which prohibits taking women across state lines for prostitution; and obstructing justice. …
The ex-girlfriend was in an open relationship with Gaetz in 2017 and 2018 and allegedly discussed other women he was involved with, according to three friends of the former couple. She allegedly went with Gaetz and a number of other young women and friends of the congressman in 2018 on a trip to the Bahamas, a trip that is also under scrutiny, CBS News and Politico previously reported.
After the investigation began, Gaetz spoke with his ex-girlfriend in a three-way call with yet another woman who was cooperating with federal investigators at that point and was secretly recording the call, according to two sources familiar with the case.
It’s on that call that Gaetz is suspected of obstructing justice, which federal prosecutors are investigating, according to law enforcement sources.
Did Gaetz instruct the women to lie to investigators on that call? Or, at least, is that what the ex-GF testified? That would explain why she needs immunity in exchange for her testimony. And let’s face it, witnesses don’t usually refuse to cooperate unless they get a grant of immunity without needing it in the first place. If the ex-GF didn’t want to cooperate on the basis that no one did anything wrong, why ask for immunity?
By the same token, prosecutors don’t grant immunity to get worthless testimony, either. Federal prosecutors do not buy pigs in pokes when it comes to these deals. That doesn’t mean they always get what they want, but they usually get value in these exchanges.
Anyway, Gaetz still insists that he broke no laws, and the Department of Justice is still a ways off from proving anything in court. Given the somewhat-satirical ham-sandwich standard of grand jury indictments, though, it certainly looks as though Gaetz will get that day in court whether he wants it or not. Once there, prosecutors still have some obstacles to surmount in a trial, but a trial won’t do Gaetz any political good, even if he’s acquitted in the end.