A congressional ethics committee “has begun an investigation” following public allegations that US Rep Matt Gaetz “engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use” as well as reports that the Republican congressman allegedly shared “inappropriate” images and videos on the floor of the House of Representatives.
The House Ethics Committee also is responding to allegations that the congressman “misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use” or accepted bribes, the committee announced on Friday.
The committee also announced a probe into US Rep Tom Reed following allegations that the Republican congressman “may have engaged in sexual misconduct” after accusations surfaced in March.
The committee “will gather additional information regarding the allegations” in both cases.
Mr Gaetz, who has not been charged with any crimes, has adamantly denied allegations surrounding a federal investigation reportedly extending from a trafficking case involving Florida politician Joel Greenberg, who was indicted in 2020 on several charges, including stalking a political opponent, using a state database to create fake IDs, and sex trafficking a minor.
His lawyers told a Florida court on Thursday that he is expected to enter a guilty plea.
The Florida congressman – a rising GOP figure and ally to former president Donald Trump – is reportedly the focus of a Justice Department investigation over an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl, and whether he violated federal sex trafficking laws by allegedly paying her to travel with him.
Federal investigators are reportedly scrutinising an alleged trip to the Bahamas and whether he was provided with travel expenses and women in exchange for political favours, according to reports.
Mr Gaetz has claimed that his family has been targeted as part of an “organised criminal extortion” scheme that alleges a former Justice Department sought to relieve federal pressure on Mr Gaetz by sending millions of dollars to fund an effort to locate Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent kidnapped in Iran. His family has presumed he is dead.
Following initial reporting in The New York Times about the federal investigation, Mr Gaetz claimed that the story was intended to “thwart” a separate investigation into the extortion attempt.
In a statement responding to the ethics probe, Mr Gaetz’s office reiterated that “these allegations are blatantly false and have not been validated by a single human being willing to put their name behind them”.
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