Gaetz faces House ethics probe; federal investigation widens – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports
WASHINGTON (AP) – The House Ethics Committee announced an investigation into Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz as prosecutors investigating allegations of sex trafficking against him are also investigating the actions of some of his political allies and fellow Republicans in Florida as part of a broader public corruption investigation.
Federal agents have been investigating Gaetz’s connections with several other influential Florida political figures in recent months.
These include Florida State Senator Jason Brodeur; Halsey Beshears, the state’s former top business regulator; Chris Dorworth, a lobbyist who served in the state House of Representatives; and Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and Gaetz campaign donor who served on the board of directors of the Orlando Airport Authority, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
Brodeur and Beshears didn’t respond to repeated calls for comment on Friday. A Pirozzolo lawyer also did not respond to a request for comment. Dorworth made no comment.
The FBI’s investigation of a wide variety of subjects involving Gaetz and his staff illustrates the breadth of the investigation.
Gaetz, who has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, has kept two prominent New York lawyers when faced with a Justice Department investigation into allegations of sex trafficking in underage girls.
The exam includes an investigation into a trip Gaetz and Pirozzolo took to the Bahamas with a group of women and federal agents are checking to see if they were paid or received gifts to have sex with the men, the person said. CBS News first reported details of the trip.
The FBI has also begun questioning people about the trip and others Gaetz and his staff have taken with women, and agents are looking into whether any of the women were later hired in government positions as political favors, the person said.
Investigators have examined the financial records, contacted witnesses, former employees and anyone else they believe was aware of the activity, the person said.
The person was unable to publicly discuss details of the ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Gaetz has not been charged with a crime and has sent appeals for donations portraying him as the victim of a “smear campaign”. During a high-profile performance on Friday night at former President Donald Trump’s Doral Golf Club in Miami, he swore, “I haven’t started fighting yet.”
“I’m built for battle and I’m not going anywhere,” said Gaetz. “The trade-offs against me range from distortions of my personal life to wild – and I mean wild – conspiracy theories.”
However, a potentially threatening sign emerged in a Florida court Thursday when it became known that a Gaetz employee, Joel Greenberg, a former county tax collector, was working towards a plea. Such a move could potentially open the door for Greenberg’s collaboration against Gaetz.
The prosecution is currently investigating whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they could not publicly discuss details. Greenberg filed a not guilty pledge through his attorney on Friday on a range of charges ranging from child trafficking to fraud. A judge gave Greenberg a May 15 deadline to reach a plea deal.
The House panel’s bipartisan investigation is one of the first official signs that Gaetz’s party leaders are ready to question his actions. According to committee chair Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., And senior Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana, it also appears to go far reaching beyond the sexual misconduct reports to broader allegations of public corruption. In addition to a federal criminal investigation, the ethics investigation ensures that Gaetz must conduct investigations at the same time, even if he maintains his innocence and plans to stay in Congress.
The ethics committee does its work in secret and usually publishes a final report on what it finds, often many months later. Punishment for violating ethics is up to the house and can include reprimands, fines, and even expulsion from Congress.
A spokesman for Gaetz said on Friday that lawyers Marc Mukasey and Isabelle Kirshner will lead his legal team.
“Matt has always been a fighter. A fighter for its constituents, a fighter for the country and a fighter for the constitution. He will fight the unfounded allegations against him, ”the statement said, adding that the lawyers“ will fight those who try to smear his name with untruths ”.
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