I love when a person’s face accurately conveys to the world exactly who they are inside.
Well, when it comes to owning a mug that says, “pampered douchey rich kid/Rom-Com villain and lacrosse player who cries for daddy when someone finally punches him in the nose,” Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz is the Greatest of All-Time.
And whattaya know?!
This week, the public learned of two ongoing FBI investigations involving the Congressman, as well as a bizarre extortion scheme involving his family. We also received various details about Gaetz’s social life and the “frat boy” energy he’s yet to have grown out of at 38-years-old.
What’s abundantly clear is no matter what the federal inquiries ultimately find, Florida’s 1st district’s Representative has earned every square centimeter of his “Patrick Bateman meets Bradley Cooper in Wedding Crashers” evil preppy face.
Not that Rep. Gaetz’s obnoxiousness was much of a secret before this scandal.
Since entering the US House, he’s made numerous enemies in both parties. As an enthusiastic cheerleader and close ally of Donald Trump, Gaetz was shielded from any consequences from things like:
- Storming a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility with dozens of GOP Congressmen,
- Making veiled threats at Michael Cohen (implying spousal infidelity), Trump’s former lawyer and — at the time — a witness testifying before the House Oversight Committee,
- Perpetuating various conspiracy theories,
- Refusing to work his way up in the party through committee appointments and longevity, opting instead for publicity stunts, hopping in front of cameras, and speaking recklessly — perceived by long-tenured Republicans as “jumping the line” and putting ego before the GOP caucus,
- Developing an Andrew Cuomo-like reputation for mistreating others and bragging to peers about sexual conquests – including showing nude pictures of one on the House floor.
It never mattered that he was burning bridges because he had the President – which meant he also had Trump’s supporters. Meanwhile, the old guard powerbrokers appeared to be on their last legs.
“Trumpism” and the new “beer and blue jeans” culture war conservatives (the game at which Gaetz has thrived) were poised to take over the GOP, become the party of the working-class, and purge the establishment moderates one primary at a time.
Then Joe Biden won the election, the “stop the steal” movement ended in failure and disgrace, and finally, January 6 happened – costing Trump most of his political capital and his greatest weapon: the ability to communicate with supporters directly on social media.
Without Daddy Trump, Gaetz finds himself isolated, with precious few allies when he needs them most. Sources on Capitol Hill paint a picture of jubilant Republican leaders relishing the Florida Rep’s comeuppance and excitedly anticipating wishing him “good riddance” once and for all.
“There may be no one in Washington who has modeled themselves and behavior after Donald Trump more than Matt Gaetz – but [he’s] not the President of the United States…I don’t know if [Matt Gaetz] can get away with that same style of politics.”
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Whether this is the end for Gaetz remains to be seen.
We could find out the worst charges are a hoax – as Gaetz has asserted – and someone with an ax to grind is setting him up.
It would only be about the 700th time the news media has run with a highly salacious, damaging story, ensuring the suspect is found guilty in the court of public opinion, then drop everything and move to the next outrage when the lies are exposed. Eventually, the aggrieved party can count on a quiet retraction, attracting about 1/1000th of the allegations’ attention.
We could also discover Rep. Gaetz – either knowingly or unknowingly – paid a 17-year-old girl for sex, violating statutory rape and human trafficking laws.
As we’ll discuss below, some evidence and connections to other suspects have been substantiated, and they don’t look good. If the young woman testifies (assuming she hasn’t already) that she was solicited for sex while underage, forget about his political career, Matt Gaetz is headed to prison!
- Two of his closest political allies are frontrunners for the 2024 Republican nomination; will “guilt by association” drag any of them down with Mr. Affluenza?
- Could this scandal deal a crippling blow to Trumpism as a whole? (Between January 6, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and this, the people entrusted with Trump’s working-class conservative coalition aren’t doing much good for the brand.)
- Will Matt Gaetz vacate his House seat (either by choice or forced)? Even if he completes his term, will he seek reelection – or any public office — in 2024?
- Any chance he’s still electable when this is all said and done?
What We Know So Far
There’s still much the public doesn’t know about the FBI’s inquiries, but we still have a general overview of what they’re investigating. As the most explosive scandal in US politics at the moment, we can expect new information to emerge daily.
For now, here’s where things stand:
Prostitution & Trafficking Allegations
Recently, Congressman Gaetz has been telling associates that he’s contemplating leaving Congress early to pursue a position at OAN, Fox News, or Newsmax. All three networks have denied extending an offer.
Regardless of his career prospects, his sudden desire to escape politics takes on a different appearance after last Tuesday’s report in The New York Times. The Times broke the story that the Florida Rep. is being investigated for allegedly paying for a 17-year-old’s travel across state lines before engaging in a sexual relationship with the minor.
The investigation began under the final months of Trump’s Justice Department and stems from a previous inquiry into Gaetz’s friend, Joel Greenberg, a Florida state official who last year was indicted on multiple charges, including making fake IDs for underage girls and sex trafficking.
“Investigators believe Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people said.
“One of the women who had sex with both men also agreed to have sex with an unidentified associate of theirs in Florida Republican politics, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. Mr. Greenberg had initially contacted her online and introduced her to Mr. Gaetz, the person said.”
Rep. Gaetz appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show the same day the story broke to declare his innocence and claim the allegations were a hoax perpetrated by an ex-Justice Department official and partners, trying to extort the Congressman and his family. He denied the existence of the 17-year-old in question.
“It is a horrible allegation and it is a lie. The New York Times is running a story that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman and that is verifiably false. People can look at my travel records and see that that is not the case. What is happening is an extortion of me and my family,” Gaetz told Carlson Tuesday night.
However, he’s made comments regarding his prolific love life and generosity with sexual partners that have raised eyebrows. He’s not been shy about dating much younger women or admitting he’s paid for flights and hotels for women to visit him.
“I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner,” Gaetz said on Fox News. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”
Gaetz points the finger at former Air Force intelligence officer Bob Kent and David McGee, a former federal prosecutor. The pair allegedly sought $25 million to help finance a mission to Iran to find and recover missing ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, assumed to be dead.
In communications to Don Gaetz – Matt’s father – Kent provided evidence of an FBI probe into the Congressman, centered around photographic proof of his participation in an apparent orgy with underage girls.
Gaetz has suggested that McGee leaked news of the investigation to the New York Times in retaliation for not consenting to what he’s called an “extortion plot.”
Instead, they contacted federal authorities about the alleged blackmail. On Tucker Carlson, Rep. Gaetz said that his father had “been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction” to help “catch these criminals.”
“In a document labeled “Project Homecoming” that Kent purportedly gave Don Gaetz, it outlined the feds’ alleged case against the Congressman saying he’s ‘currently under investigation by the FBI for various public corruption and public integrity issues.
“It says the FBI has learned of images of Gaetz in a “sexual orgy with underage prostitutes.” The document says at least one underage girl has provided testimony to a Florida grand jury that Gaetz ‘paid her to engage in sexual activities.
“If the Gaetz family paid the $25 million and Levinson is successfully freed from Iran, Gaetz would be on the plane that returns Levinson to freedom and be ‘given credit’ for facilitating the release, the document said.”
The people involved in the effort to find Robert Levinson deny ever having extorted the Gaetz family. McGee’s law firm issued a statement calling the Congressman’s allegation “false and defamatory.”
“It’s a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that he’s under investigation for sex trafficking of minors,” McGee responded after Gaetz’s initial Tuesday night Fox News appearance. Regarding the sex trafficking probe, he added: “I have no connection with that case at all, other than, one of a thousand people who have heard the rumors.”
Three screenshots of a text conversation between Dilbert cartoon creator Scott Adams and Jake Novak, media director of the Israeli consulate in New York City, cast doubt on the extortion claims. They were leaked to a blog called “The American Conservative,” and authenticated by one of the parties involved.
In the first screenshot, a message from Novak informs Adams of the FBI probe into Gaetz. It was delivered on the Saturday before the New York Times story was published.
He wrote: “Scoop I can’t report: Rep. Gaetz is the subject of a secret Grand Jury probe of sex with minors, and possibly murder conspiracy. I trust the source. Charges/accusations apparently ‘very credible’”
Adams is hesitant to believe the news. In the second pic, Novak suggests that he’s playing a pivotal role in the efforts to free Levinson from Iran, complaining to the cartoonist that “this is screwing up my efforts to free Bob Levinson.”
In the third leaked screenshot, the Israeli consulate employee refutes Gaetz’s allegations of extortion. “The real documents do not extort,” he writes, “And we only asked for $25 million as an estimate at first. We came way down.”
When a widely despised public official is rocked by a scandal that leaves them vulnerable, other unflattering stories about them begin pouring into media outlets. It’s happened to Andrew Cuomo recently, and now it’s Matt Gaetz’s turn.
The Daily Beast reports:
“More than a half-dozen lawmakers have spoken to these reporters about his love of alcohol and illegal drugs, as well as his proclivity for younger women. It’s well-known among Republican lawmakers that Gaetz was dating a college student—one over the age of consent—in 2018. She came to Washington as an intern.”
The New York Times claims that two sources witnessed Gaetz’s drug use:
“In encounters during 2019 and 2020, Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg instructed the women to meet at certain times and places, often at hotels around Florida, and would tell them the amount of money they were willing to pay, according to the messages and interviews.
“One person said that the men also paid in cash, sometimes withdrawn from a hotel ATM.
“Some of the men and women took ecstasy, an illegal mood-altering drug, before having sex, including Mr. Gaetz, two people familiar with the encounters said.”
CNN published an article about the Congressman’s workplace behavior:
“Behind the scenes, Gaetz gained a reputation in Congress over his relationships with women and bragging about his sexual escapades to his colleagues, multiple sources told CNN.
“Gaetz allegedly showed off to other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with, the sources told CNN, including while on the House floor. The sources, including two people directly shown the material, said Gaetz displayed the images of women on his phone and talked about having sex with them. One of the videos showed a naked woman with a hula hoop, according to one source.”
Then you have an ABC News report detailing Matt Gaetz’s “frat boy” sexual proclivities as a member of the Florida House:
“Prior to joining Congress, Gaetz was a member of the Florida House of Representatives when his father was also a member of the Florida Senate. Sources told ABC News the two were often referred to as ‘Daddy Gaetz and Baby Gaetz.’ Sources said some women referred to him as ‘Creepy Gaetz’ because they allegedly found themselves made uncomfortable by the junior lawmaker.
“Sources said Gaetz was part of a group of young male lawmakers who created a ‘game’ to score their female sexual conquests, which granted ‘points’ for various targets such as interns, staffers or other female colleagues in the state House. One of the targets of the scoring system was a group the lawmakers had heard were “virgins,” according to a source. The scoring system by male Florida lawmakers was previously reported by the Miami Herald.
“One source said Gaetz was often spotted trying to pick up young women at 101 Restaurant, a once-popular watering hole in Tallahassee for some lawmakers and students from nearby Florida State University.”
Denies All Accusations, No Plans to Resign
Since the NY Times report broke, political rivals from both parties have called for Gaetz to resign from Congress or, at least, be removed from the House committee that oversees the Justice Department. However, the Congressman has no intention of stepping down.
His office released the following statement last week: “Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life.”
Rep. Gaetz reiterated that he’s “absolutely not resigning” from the House and “will not be intimidated or extorted” by political opponents in an op-ed for the Washington Examiner.
“Since I’m taking my turn under the gun, let me address the allegations against me directly. First, I have never, ever paid for sex. And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old,” he wrote.
Potential Fallout / Collateral Damage
If he seeks reelection, this story will undoubtedly hurt his chances (unless it’s proven to have been a blatant hit job). However, this controversy matters most for handicappers due to potential blowback on his friends and allies – some of whom are top contenders for the Republicans in 2024.
Ron DeSantis is quickly becoming the prospective 2024 candidate about whom conservatives are most excited. Already, Democrats are highlighting the Florida Governor and Gaetz’s close friendship.
Suppose the allegations about underage girls turn out to be accurate; political rivals will dig up every picture of the two together and every damning quote to taint DeSantis by association. There will be numerous questions about whether he knew or if he’d have said anything if he did.
The same goes for Donald Trump. The former President has already been instructed by advisors to refrain from defending his political protégé. According to sources, Trump believes the allegations may be a smear campaign, but he’s agreed to stay quiet on the matter publicly.
That gives us a decent idea of how scared Republican strategists are of “guilt by association” blowback.
The “Trumpism” Brand
A fascinating potential consequence of the Gaetz investigation is the impact it could have on “Trumpism.” Since poll numbers have shown that most Republican voters still support Donald Trump and his brand of conservatism, the assumption has been that the 2024 GOP nominee will either be the former President himself or a like-minded successor.
But if Rep. Gaetz is found guilty of sex with a minor and trafficking, could the Congressman deal the final blow to Trump’s style of politics and influence over the party?
Between Marjorie Taylor Greene’s publicity stunts and the January 6 riots, the moderates have already gained ground in the battle to control the GOP. Another high-profile scandal derailing a Trump acolyte might leave conservatives questioning their desire for more bombastic, polarizing, anti-establishment politicians.
On the other hand, if the allegations are ultimately proven to be false, and the story’s exposed as a political hit piece perpetuated by the NY Times and other liberal media outlets, the past week of Gaetz news could backfire.
There have been numerous examples of the media running with negative stories about Trump and his cronies, later shown to be complete fabrications. Another such event will solidify Republican distrust of journalists and validate Trump supporters’ conspiracy theories about establishment politics.