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Federal investigators in the Matt Gaetz probe are now reportedly seeking cooperation from two key witnesses: the Republican congressman’s friend Joel Greenberg, and an ex-girlfriend, a former Capitol Hill intern.
According to a report by CNN, the unnamed ex-girlfriend was present on a 2018 trip Mr Gaetz took to the Bahamas that is of particular interest to investigators. CNN’s sources say the woman could potentially shed light on some of the financial transactions made during that trip, which may have included payments for drugs and sex.
The Justice Department is now several months into its investigation of whether Rep Gaetz hired women for sex across state lines, which could potentially have violated sex trafficking laws. It is also investigating whether Mr Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him.
Mr Gaetz has vehemently denied the allegations, and has not been charged with any crime.
Mr Greenberg, meanwhile, faces a deadline this week to reach a plea deal with the government, which experts say could include providing information on Mr Gaetz. A former Florida tax collector, Mr Greenberg has been separately indicted on dozens of charges, including sex trafficking a minor, corruption, and stalking a political rival. He is expected to plead guilty, and his lawyer has implied that he may flip on the Florida congressman.
“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Mr Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller, told reporters after a hearing last month.
“Your ‘story’ is simply a regurgitation of the same falsehoods you’ve been peddling for two months now without a shred of evidence or a single on-record accuser,” a spokesperson for the congressman told CNN.
Mr Gaetz has in the past said the investigation is part of a plot to extort him and his family.
“Over the past several weeks, my family and I have been victims of an organised criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25m while threatening to smear my name,” the congressman said in a series of tweets when the probe first came to light.
“No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation,” he added.
Though the evidence gathering phase of the investigation appears to be wrapping up, indictments – if there are any – are not expected any time soon. Even after all witness interviews are finished, prosecutors will need to decide whether there is enough evidence to bring charges, and that decision will take time, sources told CNN.
Mr Gaetz’s office has not yet responded to The Independent’s request for comment.