Few Republicans are publicly defending Rep. Matt Gaetz in the wake of allegations that he is under investigation for sex trafficking.
Gaetz, 38, has denied the allegations, saying he and his father, Don Gaetz, who is a former member and leader of the Florida Senate, are victims of an extortion plot by a former Justice Department official. The documented evidence of his extortion claim published by the Washington Examiner is likely to bolster the lawmaker’s case that an extortion plot existed, which is separate from the explosive charges about having relations with a minor female that were reported by the New York Times on Tuesday.
House Republican colleagues of Gaetz are, for now, mostly staying mum. Gaetz, first elected to the House in 2016 representing a Florida Panhandle district, is among the most outspoken defenders of former President Donald Trump and a frequent cable television presence.
Gaetz has also positioned himself as an arbiter of party purity. In late January, he traveled to Wyoming, a state that is represented in the House by Rep. Liz Cheney, who is the third-highest Republican in the chamber. Gaetz called for Cheney to be defeated in the 2022 Republican primary.
One GOP House aide noted that Gaetz’s lack of visible support from his own conference was not surprising.
“I think it is notable that in a moment like this, he has absolutely no allies or no one he can turn to because he doesn’t have friends within the conference and has focused his time here on self-promotion instead of working with colleagues to craft policy and advance ideas,” the aide told the Washington Examiner. “I also think it’s striking that not too many people seem to be surprised that Gaetz would find himself wrapped up in something like this, which goes to the notion what most people had thought of him even before these reports surfaced.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy declined to defend the Florida Republican Wednesday, saying that Gaetz would be dropped from his committees if the allegations were shown to be true.
Gaetz is on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Judiciary Committee, which has congressional oversight over the Justice Department.
“Those are serious implications,” McCarthy, a California Republican, said on Fox News. “If it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that was the case. But right now, Matt Gaetz says it is not true, and we don’t have any information. So, let’s get all the information.”
Only Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, stepped up in Gaetz’s defense.
Jordan told CNN’s Ryan Nobles, “I believe Matt Gaetz.”
“The DOJ needs to release the tapes instead of allowing another witch hunt to take place,” Greene said, referring to audio recordings that Gaetz described on Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight that the FBI and DOJ have that will prove his innocence.