Former President Donald Trump in his first defense of one of his strongest political ally Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) issued a brief statement refuting reports that claim the Florida congressman sought a preemptive presidential pardon.
Trump in the short statement highlighted Gaetz also “totally denied” the allegations.
“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 issued from his 45 office Wednesday.
The statement from the former president came after The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing two sources with knowledge of the claim that Gaetz sought in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and an unnamed congressional allies “for any crimes they may have committed.”
However, top White House lawyers and officials viewed Gaetz’s request for a pre-emptive pardon as a nonstarter that would set a bad precedent.
Gaetz’s spokesman denied that the Florida lawmaker had ever requested a pardon from Trump at the same time he was cooperating with the Justice Department inquiry.
“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,” the spokesman said in a statement to The Times. “Those comments have been on the record for some time, and President Trump even retweeted the congressman, who tweeted them out himself.”
Gaetz is currently under federal investigation for possible sex trafficking, but no charges have been filed against him as of yet. The Florida lawmaker has vehemently denied allegations of being sexually involved with a 17-year-old, telling Axios in an interview last month that the investigation is “rooted in an extortion effort against my family for $25 million.”
“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.”
Along with the investigation, Gaetz is also facing mounting accusations against him, including probes into whether he paid for sex with women, including allegedly paying a 17-years old by enticing her to travel with him, travels that violates federal sex trafficking laws, along with being accused of misdeeds in showing off his past sexual flings naked photos to fellow lawmakers.
In an op-ed penned earlier this week, Gaetz vowed that he’s “absolutely not resigning,” while comparing himself to Trump, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and the late Sen. John McCain, saying the “bizarre” allegations against him are a product of his brash legislative style against the swamp D.C. “mafia” he called “political opponents.”
“Yes, just like the mafia, the D.C. swamp protects its [sic] ‘made men.’ Since I’m taking my turn under the gun, let me address the allegations against me directly,” Gaetz wrote in the op-ed published Monday. “Folks won’t be surprised that bizarre claims are being made about me shortly after I decided to take on the most powerful institutions in the Beltway: the establishment; the FBI; the Biden Justice Department; the Cheney political dynasty; even the Justice Department under Trump.”
“I’m just in the way.”