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Ted Lieu wants Matt Gaetz off judiciary committee following sex trafficking allegations

California congressman describes Florida representative’s role as ‘untenable’

James Crump
Wednesday 31 March 2021 17:00 BST
Ted Lieu says Matt Gaetz should be removed from judiciary committee

Democratic representative Ted Lieu has called for Republican congressman Matt Gaetz to be taken off the House Judiciary Committee while he is investigated over allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid her to travel with him.

On Tuesday afternoon, The New York Times reported that Mr Gaetz, a Florida representative, is under investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) about whether he violated federal sex trafficking laws by allegedly paying for a 17-year-old to travel with him.

Following the reports, Mr Lieu, who serves on the committee with the Florida representative, said that Mr Gaetz should be taken off it while the investigation is undertaken by the DOJ.

“Rep Matt Gaetz should be taken off the @HouseJudiciary Committee until the @TheJusticeDept investigation is completed,” Mr Lieu tweeted on Tuesday.

“He should not be sitting on a Congressional Committee with oversight over the DOJ while the Department is investigating him,” the California congressman added.

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Speaking about the report on MSNBC later in the day, Mr Lieu reiterated his prior post, saying that the congressman’s position on the committee is “untenable”.

As the House Judiciary Committee oversees the administration of justice within the federal courts, administrative agencies and Federal law enforcement entities, Mr Lieu said that Mr Gaetz’s role is a conflict of interest while he is being investigated by the DOJ.

“Right now we have a situation in Congress where we have a sitting member of Congress, Matt Gaetz, who is sitting on the House Judiciary Committee that has oversight over the very department that is investigating him.

“That’s an untenable situation and Matt Gaetz either should leave the Judiciary Committee voluntarily or he should be removed until an investigation is completed,” Mr Lieu said on Tuesday evening.

The investigation into the congressman, a close ally of former President Donald Trump, is reportedly part of a larger probe into Joel Greenberg, a Florida official who was indicted last summer on child sex-trafficking charges.

Mr Greenberg faces 14 charges, including allegations of stalking a political opponent, using a state database to create fake IDs, and sex trafficking a minor. He faces a trial in June.

In regards to the GOP congressman, DOJ investigators are reportedly looking into encounters between Mr Gaetz and a girl that were alleged to have taken place two years ago, when she was 17.

In an interview with Axios following reports of the investigation, Mr Gaetz denied the allegations, saying they are “as searing as they are false”.

“I believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to criminalise my sexual conduct, you know when I was a single guy,” he continued. “You know, I’ve paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner,” Mr Gaetz added.

In a follow-up statement on Twitter, the congressman then claimed that his family has been targeted as part of a “criminal extortion” scheme involving a former DOJ official who is seeking $25m (£18.1m) “while threatening to smear my name”.

“We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter,” the 38-year-old congressman added in a separate tweet on Tuesday.

The Independent has contacted both the DOJ and Mr Gaetz for comment.

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