A defiant and embattled Matt Gaetz has claimed he has support from Donald Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill during a speech he delivered for a conservative women’s event held at the former president’s Florida resort.
As explosive reports accused the congressman of engaging in “sugar daddy” relationships with young girls and violating federal sex-trafficking laws.
Mr Gaetz decried the investigation and subsequent allegations as “wild conspiracy theories” during the “Save America Summit” on Friday.
“This past week has been full of encouragement, from President Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan, to the MAGA nation that shares so much love,” Mr Gaetz said, referring to the acronym for Make America Great Again to describe the former president’s base of loyal supporters. “So let me assure you: I have not yet begun to fight for the country I love and the nation I know benefits from America first principles.”
“I’m built for the battle,” he added, “and I’m not going anywhere.”
Despite the rousing speech, Mr Gaetz might soon find his personal and professional lives in even more troubling waters after one of his associates, Joel Greenberg, a former county tax collector, was reportedly expected to plead guilty to sex trafficking charges as part of a plea deal.
The walls appeared to be closing in on Mr Gaetz, who rejected the accusations against him in a bizarre statement he released through his congressional office, and claimed he was the victim of a separate extortion plot, which has not been verified.
“Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex,” the statement read. “Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life.”
New reports also suggested the congressman requested a blanket pre-emptive pardon from Mr Trump, though it appeared that had not been granted before the former president left the Oval Office. Mr Trump has also denied that Mr Gaetz made such a request.
The House ethics committee has since launched an investigation into Mr Gaetz’s potential “sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use” as well as accusations he “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 event at Mr Trump’s Florida properties was organised by Women for America First, the same group behind a rally held at the White House ahead of the January 6 Capitol insurrection, in which pro-Trump extremists staged a deadly attack on the US Capitol building as Congress convened to certify the results of the 2020 election.
“I won’t be intimidated by a lying media, and I won’t be extorted by a former DOJ official and the crooks he is working with,” Mr Gaetz said, adding: “The truth will prevail.”
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