An alleged orgy with prostitutes. Accusations of intercourse with an underage lady. A trophy photograph of a girl carrying solely a hula hoop. And a convoluted extortion plot involving a possible lifeless American hostage in Iran.
Even by Florida requirements, the Matt Gaetz saga is downright weird — and getting weirder by the day.
Earlier than this week, the younger Sunshine State congressman and ally of former President Donald Trump was greatest identified, like his mentor, for his bold conservatism and promontory hairstyle.
However this week, the Republican has confronted a each day flurry of scandalous headlines.
Most significantly, he’s being investigated by the Justice Division for allegedly having intercourse with a 17-year-old lady, and for paying for her to journey with him throughout state traces, probably violating federal sex-trafficking legal guidelines.
Gaetz denies the allegations — however not the actual fact of the investigation.
Then, on Thursday, CNN alleged that he had proven fellow lawmakers nude images of girls he mentioned he’d slept with, together with one photographed carrying a hula hoop, and nothing else.
There have additionally been claims by two of Gaetz’s enemies that the FBI has images of him in a “sexual orgy with underage prostitutes.”
It’s all sufficient to make his penchant for posing on Instagram with out pants, as he did in a July posting he captioned, “Covid work!” appear tame by comparability.
That is how the newest Gaetz drama has performed out to this point:
Information of the sex-trafficking investigation, launched within the ultimate months of the final administration, broke Tuesday in The New York Occasions.
The Pensacola bachelor, 38 — whose engagement to Harvard enterprise college scholar Ginger Luckey, 26, was introduced on Twitter by Fox’s Jeanine Pirro in December — instantly denied he had intercourse with a minor or transported one throughout state traces.
“Within the strongest doable phrases. I deny that I’ve ever been with somebody underage,” he informed The Submit on Tuesday.
“That’s false,” he insisted.
However Gaetz had solely raised extra eyebrows when he conceded to the Occasions that a few of his previous “generosity” towards former gal friends could also be coming again to hang-out him.
“I solely know that it has to do with girls,” he informed the paper, when requested what he knew in regards to the investigation.
“I’ve a suspicion that somebody is attempting to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as one thing extra untoward.”
Quickly, a brand new squall of headlines — these involving underage intercourse trafficking victims, an orgy, and a $25 million extortion plot — confirmed simply how far more untoward issues might get.
Simply hours after the Occasions story broke, Gaetz did an interview on Fox Information with Tucker Carlson.
He was there on digital camera, ostensibly, to clear issues up.
As a substitute, Gaetz wove a twisty story that solid himself and his father, Don, a rich former Florida politician, because the heroic victims of an enormous blackmail plot.
“What is going on,” he informed Carlson of the DOJ leak to the Occasions, “is an extortion of me and my household involving a former Division of Justice official.”
That ex-official, the villain of his purported extortion plot, is lawyer David McGee, a former Florida federal prosecutor, Gaetz alleged.
“On March 16, my father received a textual content message demanding a gathering,” Gaetz mentioned. “Whereby an individual demanded $25 million in trade for making horrible sex-trafficking allegations against me go away,” he informed Carlson.
He and his father reached out to the feds, “and the FBI and the Division of Justice have been so involved about this tried extortion of a member of Congress that they requested my dad to put on a wire,” Gaetz informed Carlson.
The feds should launch the ensuing audio tape, he informed Carlson, claiming it can show his innocence and reveal “a plot to bleed my household out of cash.”
McGee leaked the DOJ sex-traffic investigation to the Occasions when the extortion plot fell by means of, Gaetz concluded within the surprising interview.
Then there’s the Iranian hostage angle.
McGee and ex-Air Power intelligence officer Bob Kent didn’t need the cash for themselves, essentially, Gaetz is alleging.
They needed to make use of the cash to free Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent taken hostage by Iran in 2007, and declared lifeless by his household final yr.
Oh, and about these sex-trafficking allegations?
“Offering for flights and resort rooms for those who you’re relationship who’re of authorized age will not be a criminal offense,” Gaetz informed Carlson, a denial that will have accomplished much less in the way in which of clearing his title than he supposed.
McGee, in the meantime, has denied Gaetz’s hostage-extortion plot allegations, calling them “a blatant try to distract from the truth that he’s underneath investigation for intercourse trafficking of minors,” as he informed The Washington Submit.
And McGee is preventing Gaetz with banner-headline dust of his personal.
Which brings us, lastly, to the alleged orgy.
Gaetz has proven the Washington Examiner a string of textual content messages and different paperwork he says present the main points of McGee and Kent’s supposed extortion try — together with the pair’s reference to the FBI having images of the congressman in a “sexual orgy with underage prostitutes.”
The doc has not been verified, and its redundant reference to a “sexual orgy” will not be elaborated on.
On Friday, textual content messages emerged purporting to hyperlink Gaetz to Joel Greenberg, a political ally and Seminole County tax official who’s being prosecuted for underage intercourse trafficking.
It was Greenberg’s prosecution — for allegedly making a faux ID for a minor lady “to facilitate his efforts to have interaction in industrial intercourse acts” — that had first put Gaetz on the feds’ radar.
Texts obtained by the Day by day Beast seem to indicate Greenberg asking one in all his staff to make a drivers license for Gaetz, who had misplaced his and wanted a fast alternative to board a flight.
The congressman repeatedly boasted to unnamed Florida pols about girls he met by means of Greenberg — even flashing round movies at events of them in numerous levels of undress, The Washington Submit in the meantime reported Friday evening.
And to cap the week off, his communications director, Florida native Luke Ball, scrubbed mentions of Gaetz from his Twitter biography and tendered his resignation.
“The Workplace of Congressman Matt Gaetz and Luke Ball have agreed that it could be greatest to half methods,” a joint assertion learn. “We thank him for his time in our workplace, and we want him the perfect transferring ahead.”