Career lawyers have reportedly recommended that the Department of Justice (DOJ) not charge Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) as part of its probe into allegations of sex trafficking against the congressman.
The Washington Post, citing people familiar with the matter, reported on Friday that career prosecutors advised the department not to charge Gaetz because of credibility concerns regarding two key witnesses.
While the department has not yet announced a final decision on charges in the case, sources told the Post that the DOJ rarely dismisses advice from career lawyers. New evidence, however, could arise, the newspaper noted, which could change the department’s thinking when it comes to the investigation.
After the Post published its article, Politico — citing a person familiar with the probe — reported that charges are not expected to be brought against Gaetz in the sex-trafficking case.
Isabelle Kirshner, a lawyer representing Gaetz, told The Hill that she has not heard anything from the DOJ, adding, “Until I do, I will not comment.”
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Gaetz’s office told The Hill, “Those who told lies about Congressman Matt Gaetz are going to prison, and Congressman Matt Gaetz is going back to Congress to continue fighting for America.”
In November, a man pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for a plot to secure a presidential pardon for Gaetz in exchange for $25 million. Stephen M. Alford contacted Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, to discuss the deal. Alford was sentenced to 63 months in prison.
The Hill reached out to the DOJ for comment.
The Justice Department opened an investigation into Gaetz in late 2020 on allegations that the Florida congressman engaged in a relationship with a 17-year-old girl and partook in sex trafficking. Gaetz has said he did not have a relationship with a minor nor did he pay for sex.
Investigators have reportedly dug into Gaetz’s relations with the then-17-year-old as part of its probe of whether the Florida Republican paid for sex, which could violate federal sex-trafficking laws.
One witness of concern to career prosecutors is Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was close to Gaetz, according to the Post.
Greenberg pleaded guilty to a number of charges in May 2021, including trafficking of a child. He is now cooperating with the DOJ.
The investigation into Gaetz spurred from the Greenberg probe — the department was looking into if Greenberg fabricated sexual-misconduct claims to use against the person he faced in a county tax collector election.
Sources familiar with the matter told the Post that the 17-year-old girl at the center of Gaetz’s allegations is also a witness of concern. She was on a trip that Gaetz reportedly took to the Bahamas in 2018, which the case has in part focused on.
Career prosecutors, however, are concerned that her testimony may not stand before a jury.
The Post reported last week that a former Trump White House aide told the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol that Gaetz was trying to secure a preemptive pardon for the sex-trafficking probe.
Johnny McEntee told the panel that Gaetz informed him during a meeting “that they are launching an investigation into him or that there’s an investigation into him,” according to the Post. The former aide did not, however, note who was leading the investigation.
McEntee said the Florida congressman informed him that “he did not do anything wrong but they are trying to make his life hell, and you know, if the president could give him a pardon, that would be great.”
Asked if the pardon was in regards to the DOJ sex-trafficking probe, McEntee said “I think that was the context, yes.”