It was first reported by the New York Times last Tuesday that federal authorities are examining whether Gaetz, a loyal ally to the former president, engaged in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to accompany him on his travels.
The Justice Department inquiry into Gaetz was reportedly opened by Attorney General William Barr during the final months of the Trump administration. No charges have been brought against Gaetz.
The investigation is said to be focused on cash payments Gaetz made to women, with federal prosecutors looking into whether he and a political ally — Joel Greenberg, who is facing sex trafficking allegations — may have offered gifts to underage girls or paid them in exchange for sex.
The embattled Florida Republican thanked Women for America First “for the invitation to share my vision for our great nation” this coming Friday at Trump National Doral Miami.
The pro-Trump nonprofit organization, which has been described as a “dark money group” because it does not publicly disclose its donors, hosted the “Save America Rally” outside the White House that immediately preceded the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6 at the US Capitol.
The siege, which resulted in the loss of several lives and dozens of injuries, was largely incited by the comments Trump made to his supporters prior to and during his speech — including exhorting the crowd “to fight” — at the event.
Women for America First is charging from $500 for a general admission ticket to up to $5,000 for a “Diamond Package” for attendance at its summit, which the organization describes as being “about stopping the radical agenda being pushed, not only from the White House but in Congress.”
Gaetz is listed as being the keynote speaker at the four-day event. Other conservatives noted to be attending include Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene — a Georgia Republican known for amplifying dangerous conspiracy theories — Senator Rand Paul, and Representative Louie Gohmert.
The summit will mark Gaetz’s first public appearance since his interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson last Tuesday that quickly went off the rails — broadcast only hours after the news of the investigation broke.
The segment, during which Gaetz on more than one occasion appeared to try to implicate the conservative commentator in the growing controversy, left Carlson so befuddled that once the conversation wrapped up he concluded: “That was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”
Gaetz has repeatedly denied the allegations against him, claiming that the current situation is tied to an extortion plot involving his family. His Republican colleagues have largely remained silent — especially as additional accusations of sexual misconduct came out over the week.
The Florida Republican has also been accused of showing fellow lawmakers nude photos of women he said he had slept with, playing a “game” with those in the Florida Legislature in which members of the House got “points” for sleeping with “aides, interns, lobbyists, and married legislators,” and other allegations of inappropriate behavior.
Gaetz penned a bellicose column on Monday in the Washington Examiner, a conservative news outlet, throughout which he levied attacks both against Democrats and news organizations, refused calls to step down, and denied the charges against him.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that while it remains unclear when Gaetz first knew about the investigation, sources told the paper that in the final weeks of Trump’s term in office, Gaetz “privately asked the White House for blanket preemptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed.”
Aides reportedly told Trump about the request, though it is unclear whether Gaetz and the former president privately discussed the matter.
Shannon Larson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.
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