The appalling details just keep coming:
Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican being investigated by the Justice Department over sex trafficking allegations, made a name for himself when he arrived on Capitol Hill as a conservative firebrand on TV and staunch defender of then-President Donald Trump. Behind the scenes, Gaetz gained a reputation in Congress over his relationships with women and bragging about his sexual escapades to his colleagues, multiple sources told CNN.
Gaetz allegedly showed off to other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with, the sources told CNN, including while on the House floor. The sources, including two people directly shown the material, said Gaetz displayed the images of women on his phone and talked about having sex with them. One of the videos showed a naked woman with a hula hoop, according to one source.
“It was a point of pride,” one of the sources said of Gaetz.
We assume Lindsey Graham was not impressed. [Rim shot!]
(UPDATE, just a thought: if any of those women were underaged when he took the pix, he is now in possession and distribution of child porn.)
But wait! There’s more!
“Investigators believe Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances… Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them.”
“One of the women who had sex with both men also agreed to have sex with an unidentified associate of theirs in Florida Republican politics.”
The Epstein parallel here is obvious (Hi TFG!), but it also seems reasonable to suggest that Greenberg is the one leaking this.
UPDATE 1: Tiger Beat on the Potomac (thanks Charlie!) other morning email thingie goes LONG:
…That also dovetails with this unflattering portrait of Gaetz from The Daily Beast that chronicles his less-than-sterling reputation on Capitol Hill, where Gaetz made his preference for younger women and drug use known and where an empty box of condoms was once spotted in the trash bin outside his congressional office. Your Huddle host also got her hands on that same photo, which you can see for yourself here:
Gaetz has vehemently denied the allegations and says he’s the victim of an elaborate extortion scheme. “Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex. Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely,” his team said in a statement to NYT. “Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life.”
What we’re watching unfold is a potentially career-ending scandal for the 38-year-old MAGA star. So here’s a question: Does Gaetz resign his seat in Congress now and try to stanch some of the bleeding? Even before this sex scandal broke publicly, Gaetz had already mused about calling it quits early. The pressure for him to step down is probably only going to build from here; some Dems had already been calling for Gaetz to be kicked off the Judiciary Committee before the latest NYT report.
For now, congressional leaders are deferring to the ongoing DOJ probe. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday at her press conference that the allegations, if true, would be a “matter for the Ethics Committee.” And Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have both said Gaetz would lose his committee seats if he’s indicted, which is required under House rules.
But, but, but … also don’t be surprised if Gaetz follows the Trump playbook on scandals, by refusing to bow to pressure and trying to stick it out. There is, afterall, some recent precedent for Republicans being indicted and then going on to win re-election. But those victories were short-lived: Former GOP Reps. Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter both ultimately resigned when their legal troubles finally caught up with them.
Related reads: “Feds’ investigation of Matt Gaetz includes whether campaign funds were used to pay for travel and expenses,” by CNN’s Evan Perez, David Shortell, Paula Reid and Pamela Brown: https://cnn.it/3sFmoRr | “Gaetz, on the ropes, finds few friends in GOP,” via The Hill’s Juliegrace Brufke and Mike Lillis: https://bit.ly/3meOj8f.
UPDATE 2: Gaetz communications director quit.