Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz sought blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and others in Congress during the final days of former President Donald Trump’s term, according to reports from the New York Times and Fox News.
Gaetz, an ardent Trump ally during the former president’s four years in office, asked Trump aides in January for the president to offer pardons for any given crimes, two Trump associates with knowledge of the request told the Times.
The report comes amid an ongoing scandal for the representative, who is under federal criminal investigation for the potential sex trafficking of underage girls. At issue in the investigation is whether Gaetz paid for the travel and other expenses of a 17-year-old girl.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon. It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him,” Trump said in a statement.
It is unclear from the reports who else Gaetz asked a pardon for or if he had spoken with the president about the matter.
Former Attorney General William Barr was briefed on the DOJ inquiry last year, a person familiar with the matter told USA TODAY. The source, who is not authorized to comment on a pending investigation, said federal authorities had opened a full investigation at the time.
In November 2020, Gaetz said during a Fox News segment that Trump should pardon many in his administration and close allies because of the “bloodlust” of the president’s political oponents. He has since claimed that the allegations against him are politically motivated.
“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,” Gaetz said in a statement. “No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation.”
When news of the investigation was first reported, the congressman told Axios that while “I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I’ve dated” the allegations that any of them were underage is “absolutely” untrue.
A New York Times report then found payments that multiple women had received from Gaetz and Joel Greenberg, a close ally in Florida politics.
The women, who were underage girls at the time, had receipts of the payments from the mobile payment app Cash App. One woman said the men also encouraged them to meet at certain times for cash payments as well.
Gaetz has repeatedly said that he is not resigning. “Let me first remind everyone that I am a representative in Congress, not a monk, and certainly not a criminal,” Gaetz wrote in a Monday op-ed in The Washington Examiner.
David Jackson and Kevin Johnson contributed to this report.
Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter @mrbrownsir.