- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
A former associate of Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz is expected to plead guilty today to multiple federal charges including child sex trafficking and cooperate with investigators. Gaetz says this case has nothing to do with him. CBS News congressional correspondent Nikole Killion joins "CBSN AM" with more details.
ANNE-MARIE GREEN: Today, a close associate of Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz is expected to plead guilty to multiple federal charges, including child sex trafficking. On Friday, Joel Greenberg admitted that he was involved in quote, "sugar daddy relationships" in which he paid women for sex, including an underage girl. He also agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation. But Representative Gaetz insists that the plea deal has nothing to do with him. He is also under investigation for possible violations of federal sex trafficking laws. CBS News congressional correspondent Nikole Killion reports.
NIKOLE KILLION: This morning, the man Congressman Matt Gaetz has called his wingman, Joel Greenberg, is expected to plead guilty to six federal charges, ranging from child sex trafficking to wire fraud. According to his plea agreement, Greenberg admits to being involved in sugar daddy relationships, where he paid women for sex, including a minor that he introduced to other adult men who engaged in commercial sex acts. Multiple sources tell CBS News one of those men was Gaetz. And federal investigators are looking into whether he had a sexual relationship when the girl was 17.
How concerned should Congressman Gaetz be right now?
RIKKI KLIEMAN: Congressman Gaetz needs to be concerned even if he is 100% innocent.
NIKOLE KILLION: CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman.
RIKKI KLIEMAN: The details that have leaked out in this investigation are really, on the one hand, a bit titillating, and on the other hand, certainly sordid and disturbing. These are the types of crimes that simply the rumor of that kind of activity makes you look skeptically at someone, even if they're presumed innocent.
- Can I ask you a couple of questions?
NIKOLE KILLION: Gaetz declined to speak with us, but his spokesperson said Congressman Gaetz doesn't seem to be named nor referenced in Mr. Greenberg's plea. Congressman Gaetz has never had sex with a minor and has never paid for sex.
The Florida lawmaker appears undaunted, touring with conservative Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene and addressing an Ohio political summit this weekend.
At that GOP summit, Congressman Gaetz reportedly told the crowd he is being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors. A reminder that Gaetz has not been indicted and has repeatedly denied the allegations against him. Anne-Marie?
ANNE-MARIE GREEN: So Greenberg has been cooperating with authorities now for some time. Is Gaetz's office worried about what might emerge in court today?
NIKOLE KILLION: You know, if they are and if the Congressman is, he's certainly not showing it. I mean, as you saw, the Congressman just this past weekend was in Ohio at a GOP event. He is doing this tour with Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene out of Georgia. He was just on the Hill Friday, although he certainly has been evading questions from reporters.
But keep in mind, these are very serious charges that Joel Greenberg is facing. And even though he is expected to plead guilty to six charges, he faces so many more. And the fact, as you mentioned, that he is cooperating with authorities is something to take into consideration. You know, at this point Gaetz has not been mentioned in the plea agreement that Greenberg has reached. But certainly, there could be some cause for concern considering the federal investigation into that case is still ongoing. And so with that being said, you know, some legal analysts say, bottom line, it's not a good look even if Gaetz is ultimately innocent.
ANNE-MARIE GREEN: Yeah, that's what we heard from Rikki. So you know, I guess the Gaetz strategy thus far has been to just deny everything outright. Any chance that the strategy could change after today?
NIKOLE KILLION: You know, I think it depends, again, how this plea deal plays out, given Greenberg's cooperation with federal investigators. You know, if he does in fact name Matt Gaetz, then that's a gamechanger. So obviously, he and his office would have to respond to that.
ANNE-MARIE GREEN: I haven't heard a lot from lawmakers from either party, quite frankly. How are lawmakers are responding to this case?
NIKOLE KILLION: Well, they've been operating at arm's distance, you know? GOP leaders especially have been asked about Congressman Gaetz, whether he should be removed from his committee assignments for instance. And so their position on this has been that unless and Congressman Gaetz is indicted, then you know, they're really not going to take action. But if he is, of course, then he could risk further penalty and consequence, including being removed from some of those committee posts.
Democrats, on the other hand, continue to be very vocal about this, especially California's Ted Lieu, who has consistently called for Gaetz to be removed, especially from the Judiciary Committee. Even if he is innocent, you know, his feeling on it is the fact that the Department of Justice is currently investigating Matt Gaetz. He feels it's not appropriate then for Gaetz to be sitting on the committee that oversees the Justice Department.
ANNE-MARIE GREEN: Well, we will see. Today could be a crucial day. Nikole, thank you so much.
NIKOLE KILLION: You bet.