REPRESENTATIVE Matt Gaetz hit back at reports of sex trafficking allegations on Tuesday evening, claiming a rogue ex-DOJ official was looking to extort his family.
Reports broke on Tuesday that Gaetz, a Republican of Florida, is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her travel.
Investigators are examining whether Gaetz, 38, who was an ally to former President Donald Trump, violated sex trafficking laws, The New York Times reported.
But speaking on Tucker Carlson Tonight, Gaetz said the "horrible allegation" is a "lie," adding that he was being extorted by a Florida lawyer, "David McGee," who Gaetz said used to work for the Department of Justice.
Repeating claims he had made earlier in the day, Gaetz said his father was contacted because of an extortion scheme that was aimed at, "Bleeding my family out of money."
When Carlson asked what comes next, Gaetz said he was supposed to transfer money as part of a bribe, only for the New York Times' story to break and the information about the Justice Department's investigation to go public.
The representative said he has been in touch with local FBI officials about the alleged extortion efforts, which he hinted were politically motivated.
When asked about the DOJ's reported investigation into sex trafficking, Gaetz said: "The person doesn't exist."
'THE PERSON DOESN'T EXIST'
A number of federal statues make it illegal to induce someone under the age of 18 to travel across state lines in order to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value.
The Times, citing people briefed on the matter, said that the investigation into Gaetz's possible actions was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William Barr.
Due to Gaetz's national profile, senior Justice Department officials were reportedly notified of the investigation.
Such cases are regularly prosecuted by the Justice Department and can result in severe sentences.
No charges have been brought against Gaetz, and it was not reported how the representative met the girl, who is believed to have been 17 at the time of the encounter, around two years ago.
Gaetz told reporters that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department.
He added that his lawyers had been told that he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation.
Gaetz said: “I only know that it has to do with women,” adding, “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”
Following the Times report, Gaetz said in a phone interview with Axios: "The allegations against me are as searing as they are false. I believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to criminalize my sexual conduct, you know when I was a single guy."
The representative added that the specifics of the allegations are "unclear," and that he has been told "very little."
He said that the allegations against him are "rooted in an extortion effort against my family for $25 million… in exchange for making this case go away."
Asked what the charges could relate to, Gaetz said: "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."
Last year, a political ally of Gaetz, Joel Greenberg, a local official in Florida, was indicted on an array of charges, which included sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex.
Sources said that the examination of Gaetz is part of a boarder investigation into Greenberg, who has resigned from his role as a tax collector in Seminole County.
A photograph on Twitter from 2019 shows Greenberg visiting the White House with Gaetz.
Greenberg pleaded not guilty last year but was sent to jail this month for violating the terms of his bail.
Earlier Tuesday, it was reported that Gaetz is considering retiring from Congress to take up a job with Newsmax.
The representative was elected to the House in 2016, the same year Trump was elected to the White House.
Gaetz has gained nationwide attention in the past, having appeared in a number of television interviews supporting Trump.
He also proposed to his girlfriend, Ginger Luckey, at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on December 30.
Last summer, Gaetz also announced that he had an adult son, Nestor Galban, 19 – though Gaetz said that he is not Galban's biological father and has not formally adopted him.
Galban reportedly came to the United States from Cuba and was 12 when they met.
At the time, Gaetz was dating Galban's sister.
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