Matt Gaetz told a former White House aide that he hoped for a preemptive pardon from then-President Donald Trump over an investigation into him by the Justice Department, a report said.
The allegation came in testimony given to the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot, The Washington Post reported.
People with knowledge of his testimony say Johnny McEntee told the panel that the Florida Republican had told him in a brief meeting “that they are either opening an investigation into him or that he is under investigation.” Mr McEntee did not specify who was investigating the congressman.
Mr. McEntee said Mr. Gaetz told him that “he has done nothing wrong, but they are trying to make his life hell, and you know, if the president could pardon him, that would be great”.
Mr. Gaetz added to Mr. McEntee that he had made the request to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, according to The mail.
Mr. McEntee was asked by the panel whether Mr. Gaetz made the request as part of DoJ’s investigation into allegations that he may have violated federal sex trafficking laws.
“I think that was the context, yes,” said Mr McEntee, according to those with knowledge of the testimony.
In the closing months of Trump’s tenure, Gaetz publicly called for broad pardons to counter potential future investigations by Democrats.
Mr. McEntee said that Mr. Gaetz met him one evening for a short meeting and talked about the possibility of a pardon, but Mr. McEntee said he could not remember whether the discussion took place before or after the 6 May Capitol riots. January 2021, people aware of the testimony said, according to: The mail.
The investigation into Mr. Gaetz was launched in the final months of Trump’s presidency and was approved by then-Attorney General William Barr. The investigation examines whether Mr. Gaetz paid for sex, paid women to cross state lines to have sex, and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old.
The investigation was opened following a federal investigation into one of Mr. Gaetz’s friends, a man now convicted of sex trafficking. Mr Gaetz has denied allegations that he paid for sex or had sex with a minor when he was of age.
A spokesman for Mr Gaetz said: The mail that he never directly asked for a pardon from Mr. Trump, but did not respond to Mr. McEntee’s comments.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz was discussing pardons for many other people publicly and privately at the end of President Donald Trump’s first term,” the spokesperson told the newspaper. “As for himself, President Trump addressed this evil rumor more than a year ago by saying, ‘Congressman Matt Gaetz never asked for a pardon from me.’ Rep. Gaetz stands by President Trump’s statement.”
While Mr. Gaetz has not been charged with any crimes, his associate Joel Greenberg, formerly a tax collector in Florida’s Seminole County, has previously pleaded guilty to six charges, including sex trafficking of a minor, according to The mail.
The paper previously reported that Greenberg has been working with prosecutors and that he has been providing information about Mr Gaetz since 2020.
On March 31, Gaetz texted The Daily Beast: “The last time I had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, I was 17.”
In April 2021, he wrote in an opinion piece for the Washington Examiner that he “never, ever paid for sex”.
“I, as a grown man, have not slept with a 17-year-old,” he added.
Shortly after Trump’s 2020 election loss, on November 25, 2020, Mr. Gaetz said on TBEN News that Mr. Trump “should forgive everyone from himself to his administration officials, Joe Exotic if they have to.”
Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Mr. Meadows, told the Jan. 6 panel that Mr. Gaetz “personally pushed” for a pardon since early December 2020.
“I’m not sure why Mr. Gaetz would contact me to ask if he could meet with Mr. Meadows about getting a presidential pardon,” she said.
More to come…