Aware that he was the target of a federal sex trafficking investigation, Florida congressman Matt Gaetz told a White House aide he’d asked former Trump Administration chief of staff Mark Meadows about a preemptive pardon, according to the Washington Post.
Gaetz stated he had done nothing wrong, but allegedly said “If the president could give him a pardon, that would be great.”
That claim was reportedly made during former aide Johnny McEntee’s testimony before the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
McEntee was cut loose by the Trump administration in 2018, then brought back in 2020 as Trump’s director of the office of presidential personnel.
The Daily Beast reported in late August that multiple sources confirmed Gaetz, 40, was the subject of a methodical investigation revolving around underage sex trafficking charges. Allegations against the congressman, who has denied wrongdoing, came from a former “wingman,” who reportedly alerted Gaetz a female they’d solicited for sex was not of age.
McEntee reportedly told lawmakers he believed that’s what Gaetz was referencing when he sought a pardon from Meadows.
“I think that was the context, yes,” McEntee said.
Whether Gaetz told McEntee of his request for a pardon before or after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory isn’t clear. The Justice Department investigation into Gaetz’s alleged sexual proclivities began late in Trump’s term as president.
Both Trump and Gaetz have said the conservative lawmaker never directly asked the former president — to whom the congressman is slavishly loyal — for a pardon.
In June, former Meadow’s aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified to the Jan. 6 committee that she recalled Gaetz lobbying for a “blanket pardon” for Trump acolytes who challenged transferring power to the 46th president’s administration. She could not speak specifically to Gaetz’s alleged request for amnesty.
Former Trump administration White House lawyer Eric Herschmann gave testimony stating he believed Gaetz was angling for a broad pardon “for any and all things.”
Gaetz has repeatedly claimed to be a victim of political persecution.