House Ethics Committee Announces Investigation of GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz
The sordid saga of U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz has taken a serious turn toward potential consequences, as the House Ethics Committee announced Friday it has launched an official investigation into his alleged misconduct.
Gaetz is under fire for increasingly disturbing allegations and behavior, including illegal drug use and sexual misconduct. The panel issued a joint statement about the investigation on Friday but made note that it "does not indicate that any violation has occurred."
"The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Matt 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,” wrote the panel's chairman, Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and ranking member, Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind.
Gaetz may be in a precarious position because one of his close associates is on the cusp of signing a plea deal. An attorney for Joel Greenberg said that the former local official will plea to charges including sex trafficking of a child.
The Justice Department is investigating 38-year-old Gaetz over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, which could violate federal sex trafficking laws, reports The New York Times. Gaetz has denied the allegations, insisting that the entire campaign is an extortion attempt by a former department official.
"I'm not going anywhere," Gaetz told an audience at a Women for America First event on Friday in Florida. The third-term Republican declared accusations against him to be smears and "wild conspiracy theories."
To this point, Congressional Republicans had remained silent on the Gaetz revelations, but the tide may be shifting. On Thursday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois became the first GOP member to call for Gaetz to resign.
Last week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said if the "serious" allegations are true, Gaetz would be removed from his committee assignments.
The Justice Department investigation could last for months or even years. Separately, it is also investigating Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., also for allegations of sexual misconduct.