gaetz investigation
May 14, 2021

A federal court in Orlando on Thursday scheduled a "change of plea hearing" for Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector of Florida's Seminole County and a close associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), suggesting Greenberg will plead guilty Monday under a deal with federal prosecutors. Greenberg has reportedly been cooperating with federal prosecutors investigating Gaetz for potential sex trafficking and having sex with a minor, and "the likely plea by Greenberg, whom Gaetz once called his 'wingman,' is a new development that signals Gaetz may be facing increasing legal peril," Politico reports.

Greenberg faces his own 33-count indictment on a whole host of serious charges that carry long prison terms, and it isn't clear which charges he will plead guilty to on Monday or what leniency, if any, he will get for providing evidence against Gaetz. Gaetz has repeatedly denied having sex with a 17-year-old girl. Gaetz spokesman Harlan Hill told The Washington Post on Thursday that Greenberg is being charged with accusing a political rival of sex with a minor, adding: "That man was apparently innocent. So is Congressman Gaetz."

If Greenberg does testify against his former friend, "Gaetz and his attorneys are likely to seek to cast Greenberg as a liar who made up allegations against the congressman to reduce his own, significant legal exposure, and prosecutors would not be likely to rely on his testimony unless it was corroborated by other evidence," the Post reports.

Unfortunately for Gaetz, federal prosecutors have also been discussing "a potential immunity arrangement with his former girlfriend," and "those talks have intensified in recent days," Politico reports. "If the alleged victim, the ex-girlfriend, and Greenberg all cooperate against Gaetz, the chances of him being charged with sex trafficking a minor could rise substantially."

Politico's Marc Caputo outlines the allegations against Gaetz below — and tamps down expectations for a quick resolution to GatezGate. Peter Weber

Peter Weber

April 14, 2021

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Wednesday said if "something really formal" happens with the Justice Department's investigation of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Republican leadership will "of course react and take action."

The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz, 38, had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel out of state with him, allegations that Gaetz denies. Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican leader, told reporters that he hasn't talked to Gaetz about the investigation, but will likely meet with him later this week.

"It's serious things alleged," Scalise told reporters. "Obviously we want to get the facts." Gaetz is a member of the House Armed Services and Judiciary committees, and Scalise said GOP lawmakers who find themselves facing serious charges are removed from their committees.

Last week, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) became the first Republican member of Congress to call on Gaetz to resign, and on Sunday, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 House GOP leader, said the allegations against Gaetz are "sickening." Catherine Garcia

April 13, 2021

Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector for Seminole County, Florida, has been providing information about the conduct of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) to federal investigators since last year, two people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times on Tuesday.

In late March, the Times reported that Gaetz, 38, was the subject of a Justice Department investigation into whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel out of state with him. The Times says the inquiry stemmed from an investigation into Greenberg, who has been charged with sex trafficking of a minor, stalking, and bribery.

People familiar with the matter told the Times that once Greenberg realized how much evidence the government had on him, he determined that in order to get leniency, he would need to start cooperating. He reportedly told investigators that he and Gaetz gave cash and gifts to women in exchange for sex.

During a hearing last week, Greenberg's lawyer and a federal prosecutor told the judge it's likely Greenberg will plead guilty sometime in the next few weeks. Following the hearing, Greenberg's attorney, Fritz Scheller, said, "I'm sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today." Gaetz spokesman Harlan Hill told the Times that Gaetz "has never paid for sex" and proposed that Greenberg is "trying to ensnare innocent people in his troubles." Catherine Garcia

April 6, 2021

Not long before former President Donald Trump left office, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) privately approached the White House and asked for blanket preemptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies to cover any crimes they may have committed, two people with knowledge of the discussions told The New York Times.

Last week, the Times reported that Gaetz is the subject of a Justice Department investigation into whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl, traveled with her across state lines, and paid women he recruited to have sex. People familiar with the matter told the Times this is part of a larger probe into one of Gaetz's associates, Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector of Seminole County, Florida. Greenberg has been charged with child sex trafficking.

The DOJ investigation was launched during the final months of the Trump administration, but it isn't clear if Gaetz or the White House knew about it, the Times reports. Gaetz is a staunch Trump supporter who routinely defended and praised him on television shows, and after the November election he appeared on Fox News and announced Trump needed to "pardon everyone" before leaving office, claiming it would protect Trump's allies from the "bloodlust" of the "radical left."

Aides did tell Trump about Gaetz's request, the Times reports, but White House lawyers quickly shut down the idea, believing a preemptive pardon would set a bad precedent. It's unclear if Gaetz spoke directly with Trump about getting a pardon, and some of the former president's associates are now wondering if Gaetz asked for a group pardon in order to distract from his own criminal exposure, the Times reports.

Gaetz has denied having sex with a 17-year-old girl, and his spokesman told the Times that the congressman never requested a pardon, calling this the latest in a string of "false and increasingly bizarre, partisan allegations against him." Catherine Garcia

April 5, 2021

Nathan Nelson, a former aide to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), told reporters on Monday that he was questioned by the FBI last week as part of an investigation into the lawmaker, with agents wanting to know why Nelson resigned last fall.

Gaetz's office arranged for Nelson to speak, and publicized the fact that he would be making remarks from outside his home in Santa Rosa, Florida, The New York Times reports. Last week, the Times reported that the Department of Justice began investigating Gaetz, 38, during the Trump administration, and is said to be looking into whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid women he recruited to have sex.

Nelson, a retired Air Force captain, began advising Gaetz on military issues in 2017, and stepped down in 2020. He told reporters FBI agents showed up to interview him without warning last Wednesday because they believed he may have resigned after learning that Gaetz was involved in "illegal activities." Nelson denied this, and although he said he doesn't have "specific knowledge" of the investigation, he feels the allegations are "baseless" and "an attempt to discredit a very vocal conservative."

In a Washington Examiner op-ed published Monday, Gaetz echoed Nelson, writing that he is being targeted by "partisan crooks." People with knowledge of the investigation told the Times Gaetz's case is part of a larger investigation into Joel Greenberg, a Gaetz associate and former tax collector of Seminole County, Florida. Greenberg has been charged with child sex trafficking, stalking, and identity theft. Catherine Garcia

April 3, 2021

Scandal-ridden Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said he isn't resigning from Congress, but his "political brethren" in Florida "are already jockeying to take his seat," The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Justice Department is reportedly investigating payments Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician, former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, made to women allegedly recruited online for sex. The investigation is also looking into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

While Gaetz told the Journal he has no plans to step down, former Republican Rep. David Jolly of Florida thinks he may not have any other options. "These scandals hit a certain point where there's no escape," Jolly, who is no longer a member of the GOP, told the Journal, noting that Florida's politicians are "assuming" Gaetz's career is finished. "We've clearly hit that point for Matt in politics."

Former President Donald Trump may also be in that camp, at least for now. Gaetz is a fervent Trump ally, but Trump's advisers have told him to stay out of the situation, two people familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast. Trump has reportedly said privately that things seem "really bad" for Gaetz, but he has also reportedly at least entertained the possibility it's a smear campaign. "For something like this, a 10-foot pole is not long enough," Barry Bennett, a GOP operative who advised Trump during his 2016 campaign, told The Daily Beast. "The former president should stay as far away from this as possible."

Only time will tell. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The Daily Beast. Tim O'Donnell

April 2, 2021

The Justice Department investigation of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) now concerns payments he and an indicted Florida politician made to women allegedly recruited online for sex, The New York Times reports.

Investigators suspect the other politician, former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, of initiating contact with the women through websites used to arrange dates in exchange for gifts and allowances, the Times reports, citing people close to the investigation as well as text messages and payment receipts the newspaper reviewed. One of the women said she had sex with both men after Greenberg met her online and introduced her to the Republican congressman.

The investigation of Gaetz is also looking into whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Greenberg was indicted last year on several federal charges, including a sex trafficking count involving the same girl, the Times reports.

Gaetz, an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump, has denied ever paying a woman for sex. Harold Maass

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