Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told a former White House aide he sought a preemptive presidential pardon amid a sex-trafficking probe, according to testimony before select committee members of the House investigating the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.
An investigation launched at the end of the Trump administration is reportedly still looking into whether Gaetz broke federal law by allegedly recruiting women online for paid sex, including a teenage girl. He has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.
Some of the alleged interactions with women happened with the help of former Gaetz “winger” Joel Greenberg. The former Seminole County tax collector pleaded guilty last year to six felonies, including trafficking a minor. He cooperated with federal investigators and turned over “years of Venmo and Cash App transactions and thousands of photos and videos,” ABC News reported last year.
Johnny McEntee, a White House aide, recently testified that Gaetz told him he had sought a presidential pardon from former President Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, in the investigation into the trafficking, sources familiar with the testimony told the Post.
McEntee said Gaetz told him “he didn’t do anything wrong, but they’re trying to make his life hell, and you know, if the president could give him a pardon, that would be great,” reported the Post.
Gaetz did not specify that the Justice Department was leading the investigation, but McEntee said he assumed it was the investigation he was referring to, the Post reported.
The testimony is the first linking Gaetz to a specific request for a pardon in the trafficking investigation, the outlet noted. The Jan. 6 panel revealed this summer that Gaetz was among at least five Republican lawmakers who have asked Trump for broad pardons to shield them from possible investigations into insurgency crimes that might be uncovered.
Neither McEntee nor Meadows responded to the Post’s request for comment. A representative for Gaetz pointed out that the Republican lawmaker never directly asked Trump to pardon, but did not comment on a request submitted through Meadows.
Gaetz “discussed pardons for many others publicly and privately at the end of President Donald Trump’s first term,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to the Post. “As for him, President Trump responded to this malicious rumor more than a year ago by declaring, ‘Congressman Matt Gaetz never asked me for forgiveness’.”
Read the full Washington Post story here.
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