U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz speaking at the 2020 Republican National Convention. Credit: GOP Convention’s Facebook
WASHINGTON — A U.S. House panel has opened an ethics investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican who is already facing a Department of Justice investigation over sex-trafficking allegations.
Federal investigators are reportedly examining whether the 38-year-old Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, and whether his involvement with young women broke federal sex trafficking and prostitution laws, the New York Times and other media outlets have reported.
CNN also has reported that Gaetz allegedly showed other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with, and that he was on the House floor when he showed off some of the images.
In a statement announcing an investigation by the House Ethics Committee, chairman Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and ranking member Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) said the committee “is aware of public allegations that Representative Matt Gaetz may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, 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 panel will gather additional information regarding the allegations, Deutch and Walorski said in the statement.
A spokesman for Gaetz, a conservative firebrand and staunch Trump supporter first elected to Congress in 2016, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.
Since the allegations have become public, he has denied any wrongdoing, and specifically said that he has never paid for sex nor had sex with a 17-year-old as an adult. He also has claimed that he is the victim of an extortion plot.
One of his GOP colleagues, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, has called on Gaetz to resign, as have Florida’s Democratic Party leaders.
Gaetz has said he does not intend to step down from his elected role.
At least two of his staffers have left since the allegations became public. His office released a letter signed by “the Women of the Office of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz,” seeking to push back against the allegations.
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