The Justice Department is investigating whether Representative Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.) had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Investigators are looking into whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws that make it illegal for an adult to induce someone under the age of 18 to cross state lines for sex, three people familiar with the investigation told the Times. The people said the investigation was part of a probe into Joel Greenberg, a Florida tax collector and ally of Gaetz who was indicted in 2020 on a number of charges, including sex trafficking of a minor.
The investigation into Gaetz began in the final months of the Trump administration, during William Barr’s tenure as U.S. attorney general. The encounters between Gaetz and the unidentified woman, believed to have been 17 years old at the time, occurred two years ago, two of the people said.
Gaetz said his lawyers were in touch with the Justice Department regarding the investigation.
“The allegations of sexual misconduct against me are false,” Gaetz told Axios on Tuesday evening. Gaetz alleged that the investigation is “an extortion effort against my family for $25 million” headed by a former Justice Department employee.
Gaetz emphasized that he was “absolutely” sure he never had a relationship with an underage girl.
“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,” Gaetz said. “I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not.”
The news comes the same day that Axios reported Gaetz is considering leaving Congress to become a host on right-wing media outlet Newsmax. A source said Gaetz has already held preliminary discussions with the network.
Gaetz has previously considered running for Senate in Alabama and Florida, although neither of those initiatives panned out. The congressman is a staunch ally of former President Trump, telling Politico in December that Trump should run for office again in 2024.