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Expert weighs in on Rep. Matt Gaetz sex trafficking claims

Here is what we know- and what we don’t- about the reported investigation into the Florida congressman.
Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 4:30 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The DOJ is reportedly investigating Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

The 38-year-old Panhandle area congressman denies any inappropriate relationships with minors and even claims to be the victim of an extortion scheme.

“No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation,” Gaetz said in a released statement.

Washington correspondent Alana Austin reached out to the Department of Justice and the FBI; both declined to comment. Officials also didn’t acknowledge if Gaetz is under investigation. Texas A&M-Central Texas professor and former detective Tammy Bracewell said investigators typically stay silent so they don’t comprise an investigation.

“One of the reasons why the officials may also be very tight-lipped is because of the seriousness of the offense and the seriousness of the allegation,” Bracewell said.

The New York Times first reported through anonymous sources that Gaetz is part of a broader investigation that centered on Joel Greenberg, a former local Florida official who was indicted last summer on various charges, including child sex trafficking.

“Child sex trafficking does not have to be an elaborate scheme,” Bracewell said. “It really can be as simple as exchanging an act for goods with a minor… search warrants on an individual’s phone or an individual’s data files, there is possible surveillance that could occur.”

Bracewell said if someone is convicted of federal sex trafficking, the penalty could be life in prison.

Gaetz’s office has not responded to our requests for an interview.

The congressman has told other media outlets that he has no plans to resign as he maintains his innocence. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said it’s too early to judge Gaetz, but added that he would remove the Florida congressman from the committees on which he serves if the allegations against him are proven true.

Below is the official statement from Rep. Gaetz’s office:

“Over the past several weeks, my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name. We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals.

The planted leak to the New York Times tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations.”

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