Florida congressman has publicly denied any wrongdoing
Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday issued a statement in defense of Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a political ally who is facing a federal investigation over allegations of sexual misconduct.
The statement came after The New York Times reported — and a source told Fox News — that Gaetz once asked Trump White House aides for a preemptive pardon at the end of his term.
But in a statement Wednesday, Trump said Gaetz never asked him directly: “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” Trump said. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”
Gaetz, 38, who was an ardent supporter of the former president, sought “blanket preemptive pardons” for himself and unnamed congressional allies for crimes potentially committed, The New York Times first reported. The request, however, was said to be viewed by White House officials at the time as likely to set a bad precedent.
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A source familiar with the situation told Fox News on Wednesday that Gaetz’s request was met with “lots of eye rolling” and “wasn’t even considered” by the White House.
A representative from Gaetz’s office did not return Fox News’ request for comment.
Gaetz is being investigated for potential sex trafficking, The New York Times has reported, as well as payments to women.
So far, no charges have been filed against him.
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The Times noted that it was unclear whether Gaetz knew, when he made the pardon request, that the Department of Justice had been building a case against a Florida tax collector – who has been charged with sex-trafficking a minor – connected to him. Gaetz has been alleged to have met women through the tax collector, who was said to be a political ally.
Gaetz has so far vehemently denied the allegations, saying that they have been brought forward in an effort to extort him and his family.
“Over the past several weeks, my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name,” Gaetz said in a statement. “No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation.”
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The Republican congressman suggested during an interview with Fox News in November that then-President Trump should “robustly” pardon “everyone” from Trump himself to administration officials to defend against the “blood lust” among Democrats.
At the end of his term, Trump ended up handing out quite a few pardons, including to former adviser Steve Bannon, former Republican National Committee finance chair Elliott Broidy, and rapper Lil Wayne.
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