WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — A House Ethics Committee has opened an ethics probe into embattled Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, citing allegations of sexual and other misconduct, coming amid a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations involving underage girls.
The committee said in a statement Friday attributed to the Democratic chairman and the ranking Republican member that it has begun the investigation and will gather additional information about the allegations.
The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Matt Gaetz may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct. The Committee, pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a), has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding the allegations.
The Committee notes that the mere fact that it is investigating these allegations, and publicly disclosing its review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee. No other public comment will be made on this matter except in accordance with Committee rules.Committee on Ethics
The panel also issued a statement saying it has also opened an investigation into New York Congressman Tom Reed.
Federal prosecutors are examining whether the embattled 38-year-old representative paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex and violated federal sex trafficking laws, people familiar with the investigation told the Associated Press. No charges have been filed, and Gaetz has denied the allegations, insisting he will not resign his seat in Congress.
Gaetz has retained Marc Mukasey and Isabelle Kirshner, two prominent New York attorneys, as his legal team, a Gaetz spokesperson said in a statement Friday.
“Matt has always been a fighter. A fighter for his constituents, a fighter for the country, and a fighter for the Constitution. He’s going to fight back against the unfounded allegations against him,” the statement said, adding that the lawyers “will take the fight to those trying to smear his name with falsehoods.”
The news of the ethics probe came just one day after the revelation that a political ally of Gaetz’s, Joel Greenberg, is working toward a plea deal with federal prosecutors investigating a sex trafficking operation.
“I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Fritz Scheller, a lawyer for Greenberg, said after the hearing.
Scheller said Greenberg’s cooperation would likely be contingent on whether it was required by prosecutors to get a plea deal. Scheller also refused to answer when asked if Greenberg had any incriminating evidence against Gaetz.
Gaetz’s office also released a lengthy statement Thursday ostensibly from the female staffers defending the lawmaker. The statement did not name a female staffer although it was signed “The Women of the Office of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz.”
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Gaetz asked former President Donald Trump for a preemptive pardon during his final days in office, something Trump denied. Trump issued more than 70 pardons in the waning days of his first term.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” Trump said in a statement Wednesday. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”
The Justice Department investigation began last year while Trump was still president and reached the highest levels of the Justice Department; former Attorney General William Barr was briefed on the matter several times, the people who spoke to the AP said.
Gaetz said Monday he would not leave Congress and denied that he “slept with” an underage girl, suggesting that accusations against him by political foes stem from anger.
“First, I have never, ever paid for sex,” he wrote in a column appearing in the Washington Examiner, a conservative news outlet. “And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old.”
Democrats have called on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to strip Gaetz of his committee assignments while the federal probe is underway, especially his seat on the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Justice Department. Gaetz also sits on the House Armed Services Committee.
McCarthy, R-Calif., said that the accusations were “serious” and that if proved, Gaetz would be removed from committees. Notably, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger tweeted Thursday that Gaetz “needs to resign.