Later this week, Florida representative Matt Gaetz is scheduled to speak at a strongly pro-Trump summit. He appears to be trying to pretend everything’s business-as-usual. But it’s not. Last week The New York Times revealed that he’s been under investigation for months by the Department of Justice over allegations involving sex trafficking of a minor. Then more seedy claims emerged.
Now there’s yet another fishy tidbit: The Times reports that, before Trump left office and well before this scandal blew up, Gaetz sought a blanket pre-emptive pardon from the 45th president before he left office. It wasn’t just for him; also included were unidentified congressional allies. The reason? As NYT puts it, to “thwart what he termed the ‘bloodlust’ of their political opponents.”
It’s unclear whether Gaetz knew of the DoJ investigation at the time of the alleged request, or whether he discussed it private with then-president Trump. Alas, it was all for naught: White House lawyers called the blanket pardons a nonstarter that could set a bad precedent. Trump spent his final days in office pardoning dozens of allies, among them his old cohort Steve Bannon. Gaetz, a die-hard Trumpist, was not among them.
Gaetz has denied the allegations against him, although attempts to clear his name have not gone well. Mere hours after the Times made the investigation public knowledge, Gaetz appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight and only succeeded in weirding out his normally sympathetic host. A spokesperson also denied NYT’s latest report.
“Entry-level political operatives have conflated a pardon call from Representative Gaetz — where he called for President Trump to pardon ‘everyone from himself, to his administration, to Joe Exotic’ — with these false and increasingly bizarre, partisan allegations against him,” read the spokesperson’s statement. “Those comments have been on the record for some time, and President Trump even retweeted the congressman, who tweeted them out himself.”
Wherever the truth lies, for now it appears Gaetz can’t pretend like everything’s normal. But despite the Trump speaking gig, it appears, for now, the man himself wants to keep more than a little distance.