WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a prominent conservative in Congress and a close ally of former President Donald Trump, said Tuesday he is being investigated by the Justice Department over a former relationship but denied any criminal wrongdoing.
Gaetz, who represents parts of western Florida, told Axios that his lawyers were informed that he was the subject of an investigation “regarding sexual conduct with women” but that he was not a target of the probe. He denied that he ever had a relationship with any underage girls and said the allegations against him were “as searing as they are false.”
A subject is conventionally thought of as someone whose actions fall within the scope of a criminal investigation, whereas a target is someone whom prosecutors have gathered evidence linking to a crime. But during the course of an investigation, a subject can become a target.
Gaetz is under investigation by the Justice Department about a possible sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, according to a report out Tuesday from the New York Times.
According to the report, which cites three unnamed people briefed on the matter, Gaetz allegedly paid to have her travel with him, which would violate federal sex trafficking laws.
NewsNation has reached out to the Justice Department for independent confirmation of the New York Times report.
The investigation is reportedly part of a broader examination of Gaetz’s political ally, former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg.
Greenberg was indicted on charges including sex trafficking of a child and stalking an opponent. A judge ordered the former tax collector back to jail earlier this month for violating the conditions of his release.
According to the report, senior Trump administration DOJ officials were notified of the investigation when it was opened during the final months of Trump’s presidency.
Currently no charges have been brought against Gaetz.
Gaetz responded on Twitter, calling the investigation “part of an elaborate scheme involving ‘false sex allegations’ by an unnamed former DOJ official to extort him and his family for $25 million.”
He said he is cooperating with federal authorities in the matter.
Gaetz’ office released the following statement on his behalf:
“Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name. We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals. The planted leak to the New York Times tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations.”-Rep. Matt Gaetz
During an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight Gaetz explained that his father got a text message on March 16th demanding a meeting and then $25 million dollars in exchange for making “horrible sex trafficking allegations against [Gaetz] go away.”
He also alleges the unnamed DOJ official offered him a pardon. Gaetz told Carlson, “Obviously, I don’t need a pardon. I’m not seeking a pardon. I have no done anything improper or wrong.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This story is developing. Check back for updates