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Donald Trump finally breaks silence on Matt Gaetz scandal to deny pardon claims

Gaetz claims sex-trafficking allegations are part of $25m extortion plot

Justin Vallejo
New York
Wednesday 07 April 2021 20:43 BST
Donald Trump has spoken out in support of Matt Gaetz
Donald Trump has spoken out in support of Matt Gaetz (AP)
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Donald Trump has broken his week-long silence on sex trafficking allegations against Matt Gaetz to deny claims the Florida congressman sought a preemptive presidential pardon.

The former president backed one of his most loyal supporters to dispute reporting in The New York Times that Mr Gaetz wanted "blanket preemptive pardons" for crimes potentially committed.

“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon. It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him,” Mr Trump said in a statement.

Quoting two people “told of”, but not part of, the discussion, the Times claimed that Mr Gaetz sought pardons for himself and congressional allies for being one of Mr Trump’s most vocal loyalists.

The two sources claimed that aides told Mr Trump of the request, but that it was unclear if he and Mr Gatez discussed the matter directly. The White House lawyers and officials viewed the request, in the last week of the presidency, as a nonstarter that would set a bad precedent, the Times reported.

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In his short statement on the vast scandal engulfing Mr Gaetz, the former president highlighted that the embattled congressman “totally denied” the allegations, also first reported by theTimes.

Mr Gaetz has denied allegations of sexual misconduct and no charges have been brought against him.

In interviews with Fox News and Axios, Mr Gaetz claimed the allegations were part of an extortion plot to defraud $25m from his family. Documents he claimed show the FBI was actively investigating that plot were shared with The Washington Examiner, including images of text messages from former Air Force intelligence officer, Bob Kent, to Mr Gaetz's father.

"I have a plan that can make his future legal and political problems go away," the message to Don Gaetz appears to say.

In interviews with SiriusXM and CNN on Monday, Mr Kent said he asked Don Gaetz for $25m to help rescue missing FBI agent Robert Levinson but that it was not part of an extortion plot.

Asked by CNN host Chris Cuomo why he said he could make Mr Gaetz’s “future and legal political problems go away”, Mr Kent said no threat or demand was made in the request for help.

“Matt Gaetz was in need, or if the allegations are true, he’s in need of some goodwill from the government. I’m in need of a sponsor to fund the rescue project,” Mr Kent responded.

“There is no threat. I don’t have anything to do with the indictment. I don’t have anything to do with the investigation into Matt Gaetz,” he added.

The plan was reportedly outlined in one of the documents, shared with the Examiner, titled "Project Homecoming". It claimed the release was privately negotiated between the government of Iran and "certain United States and Mexican individuals", and that the loan would be repaid by the reward offered by the US Government for the prisoner release.

"A six-month, $25m loan is sought to immediately fund the release of Robert Levinson," the Project Homecoming outline said.

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