An aide to former President Donald Trump testified before the House Select Committee investigating Jan. 6 that GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida requested a preemptive presidential pardon regarding a Justice Department investigation into whether Gaetz had violated federal sex trafficking laws, a source close to the aide said. testimony tells CNN.
John McEntee, who served as director of the White House presidential personnel office in the Trump administration, told the committee that Gaetz told him about his clemency process regarding the DOJ investigation during a short meeting. . McEntee told the committee that he did not recall whether his brief encounter with Gaetz took place before or after the attack on the Capitol.
Gaetz has not been charged with any crime and the investigation is ongoing. An associate of Gaetz, former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg, pleaded guilty to federal charges, including one count of child sex trafficking, after reaching a plea deal with federal prosecutors for a Criminal case reduced after agreeing to provide “substantial assistance” to the sprawling investigation. The assistance included an agreement to testify at trials or before federal grand juries if necessary and to turn over any documents that might assist the federal investigation.
Gaetz claimed the allegations stemmed from an extortion plot against him and his family, saying in a statement to CNN in 2021 that “no part of the allegations against me are true.” His spokesperson also said Gaetz had never paid for sex, nor had sex with a 17-year-old as an adult.
The new information McEntee shared with the select committee provides more context on Gaetz’s concerns about the investigation and gives new insight into the specific type of forgiveness Gaetz was seeking. The Justice Department has been investigating Gaetz since early 2021 on allegations of sex trafficking and prostitution, including whether Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl.
McEntee told the committee that Gaetz said at the time “that they were investigating him or there was an investigation into him,” without explicitly mentioning the Department of Justice as the entity investigating him. him. But when committee investigators asked McEntee if he interpreted Gaetz’s pardon request as being in the context of the DOJ investigation, McEntee replied “I think it was the context, yes.”
McEntee also testified that Gaetz told him that “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.”
Details of McEntee’s testimony were first reported by The Washington Post.
McEntee also told the committee that Gaetz shared that he sought a pardon from former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, which the panel previously disclosed in previous testimony. A spokesperson for Meadows did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for Gaetz told CNN, “Congressman Matt Gaetz discussed pardons for many others publicly and privately at the end of President Donald Trump’s first term. Meanwhile, President Trump responded to this malicious rumor more than a year ago by saying, “Congressman Matt Gaetz never asked me for forgiveness.” Representative Gaetz continues to support President Trump’s statement.
The panel previously revealed some of McEntee’s testimony during one of its June hearings. McEntee testified before the committee that Gaetz said he explicitly asked Meadows for a pardon, although it was unclear at the time what the purpose of the pardon request was. CNN reached out to a phone number and email address believed to belong to McEntee for comment, but did not receive a response.
When an investigator asked McEntee how he knew Gaetz had asked Meadows for forgiveness, McEntee replied, “He told me he asked Meadows for forgiveness.”
The committee also released McEntee’s testimony in which he said he was aware of conversations about the possibility of a blanket pardon regarding Jan. 6. The committee also previously disclosed that a group of Republican lawmakers, including Gaetz, had sought a preemptive presidential pardon.
A spokesperson for the House Select Committee declined to comment.
During a hearing in June, the panel revealed an email sent by GOP Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama to the White House “pursuant to a request by Matt Gaetz,” asking for a pardon for Gaetz, himself. same and other anonymous people.
Former Meadows assistant Cassidy Hutchinson also testified before the committee that “Mr. Gaetz was personally pushing for a pardon, and he had been doing so since early December, I don’t know why. Mr. Gaetz had contacted me to ask if he could have a meeting with Mr. Meadows about obtaining a presidential pardon.
Hutchinson said Gaetz was not the only GOP member to contact her about a general presidential pardon. She said GOP reps Brooks, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania have all contacted her for pardons. She testified that she heard GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia “ask the White House counsel’s office to pardon Mr. Philbin, but I did not communicate frequently with Ms. Green.” She said GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio “talked about congressional pardons, but he never asked me for one.”
Trump’s former White House attorney, Eric Herschmann, testified before the committee: “I believe him” when asked if Gaetz had asked for a presidential pardon.
“The general tone was that we risk being sued because we defend the president’s positions on these things. The forgiveness he was talking about, asking for was as broad as you could describe. From the beginning – I remember he said, from the beginning of time until today for all things. He had mentioned Nixon, and I said Nixon’s pardon had never been wider,” Herschmann said, which the committee revealed during its hearing.
None of the lawmakers have ever been pardoned by Trump.