A US congressional ethics panel said Friday it has opened an investigation into the actions of Matt Gaetz, a Republican lawmaker who faces allegations of sex trafficking and having sex with a minor.
The House Ethics Committee said in a statement it was aware of allegations 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.”
Gaetz, one of the House members most loyal to Donald Trump during his presidency, has not been charged with a crime.
He has denied the allegations and claims he is the victim of an extortion scheme.
The committee also announced in an unrelated statement that it was investigating another Republican congressman, Tom Reed, amid sexual misconduct allegations.
For Gaetz, the ethics probe is a ramping up of legal exposure for the 38-year-old, a third-term congressman from Florida who until recently was seen as a rising star in the Republican Party.
In recent weeks US media reported that the Department of Justice — during Trump’s presidency — had opened its own investigation into accusations that Gaetz may have broken federal sex trafficking laws and been involved in a scheme to recruit and pay women for sex.
That probe centers on Gaetz and fellow Floridian Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Seminole County who was indicted last year on a federal child sex trafficking charge.
According to the New York Times, people close to the investigation said they believe Greenberg met women through websites and introduced them to Gaetz, who had sex with them.
The DOJ is also investigating whether Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old.
With the scandal swirling, some Democrats have called on Gaetz to step down.
“End the disgrace now, @RepMattGaetz. Resign.” tweeted House Democrat Gerry Connolly on Friday.
A group of female Gaetz staffers meanwhile has come to his defense, writing a statement Thursday saying they experienced “no hint of impropriety” by the lawmaker.
“On every occasion he has treated each and every one of us with respect,” they wrote. “Thus, we uniformly reject these allegations as false.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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