House Ethics panel investigating Matt Gaetz sex and drug claims now eyeing new allegations

On Monday, Gaetz accused the panel of ‘opening new frivolous investigations’ into him

Andrew Feinberg
Washington DC
Tuesday 18 June 2024 18:12 BST
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Florida Representative Matt Gaetz has been the subject of a long-running House Ethics Committee probe into sex and drug allegations
Florida Representative Matt Gaetz has been the subject of a long-running House Ethics Committee probe into sex and drug allegations (Middle East Images/AFP via Getty)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Florida Representative Matt Gaetz may not be facing charges from the Department of Justice, but he’s still in hot water with the House’s internal ethics watchdog when it comes to lurid accusations that have dogged him for years.

In an unusual press release, the House Ethics Committee confirmed that it was closing its probe into claims that Gaetz, a three-term congressman representing the Sunshine State’s first district, had showed colleagues pornographic materials while on the House floor, taken bribes, misused Florida identification records and stolen from campaign donors by using campaign funds on himself.

But the evenly-split, bipartisan panel — which has been investigating allegations against Gaetz since 2021 but paused the probe until the Department of Justice’s announcement last year that he would not face charges in a long-running investigation into sex trafficking allegations against him — also said its review of evidence had uncovered more claims against the self-described “firebrand” that warrant further investigative work.

“Notwithstanding the difficulty in obtaining relevant information from Representative Gaetz and others, the Committee has spoken with more than a dozen witnesses, issued 25 subpoenas, and reviewed thousands of pages of documents in this matter.  Based on its review to date, the Committee has determined that certain of the allegations merit continued review.  During the course of its investigation, the Committee has also identified additional allegations that merit review,” the committee said.

The panel also revealed that it is continuing to investigate whether Gaetz “engaged in sexual misconduct and illicit drug use, accepted improper gifts, dispensed special privileges and favors to individuals with whom he had a personal relationship, and sought to obstruct government investigations of his conduct.”

(Getty Images)

Gaetz has long denied any wrongdoing in the various probes into his conduct, and on Monday accused the panel of “opening new frivolous investigations” into him to “avoid the obvious fact” that all investigations into his conduct will lead to him being exonorated.

He also accused the panel of prolonging the probes into him at the behest of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who retired from Congress last year and has not been a member of the House for roughly six months.

“This is Soviet. Kevin McCarthy showed them the man, and they are now trying to find the crime. I work for Northwest Floridians who won’t be swayed by this nonsense and McCarthy and his goons know it,” he said.

For his part, McCarthy has said on multiple occasions that Gaetz’s displeasure with the long-running ethics probe, which was not actually under his control as House Speaker because the ethics panel operates independently, was the reason behind Gaetz’s decision to force the October 2023 House vote that led to McCarthy becoming the first House speaker to be ousted from his position mid-Congress.

The most serious allegations against Gaetz date back to 2020 and arose during a federal probe which also ensnared a then-friend and ally of the congressman, Joel Greenberg.

Greenberg, who pleaded guilty to federal charges including sex trafficking in 2021, reportedly told investigators that he witnessed Gaetz have sexual relations with an underage female who Greenberg had recruited online.

According to The New York Times, Greenberg and Gaetz used online payment apps such as Venmo to pay the women for sexual encounters that took place in 2019 and 2020. But Gaetz has denied the allegations and says the payments were to “ex-girlfriends.”

Last year, the Justice Department closed the probe into Gaetz, but Greenberg, the former Seminole County, Florida, tax collector who is serving an 11-year prison sentence, has reportedly been cooperating with House Ethics Committee investigators and has given evidence as part of the committee’s investigation into his former friend.

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