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WASHINGTON — The top House Republican and other lawmakers said Wednesday they would take a wait-and-see attitude to allegations that Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., had sex with an underage girl, even as at least one Democrat called for Gaetz's removal from committees.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said it's too early to judge Gaetz, but added that he would remove the Florida congressman from committees if the allegations are proven true.
"Those are serious implications. If it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that's the case," McCarthy told Fox News on Wednesday. "But right now Matt Gaetz says that it's not true, and we don't have any information. So let's get all the information."
McCarthy also said he would try to speak privately with Gaetz about the allegations.
The New York Times first reported Tuesday that the Department of Justice was investigating Gaetz on charges of sex trafficking, accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.
Former Attorney General William Barr was briefed on the inquiry last year, a person familiar with the matter told USA TODAY. The source, who is not authorized comment on a pending investigation, said federal authorities had opened a full investigation at the time.
The Justice Department declined comment. Gaetz has not been charged with a crime.
Gaetz has denied the allegations, claiming they are the fruits of "an organized criminal extortion attempt" involving a former Justice Department official.
"No part of the allegations against me are true," Gaetz said in a written statement.
Many lawmakers — both Republican and Democratic — stayed mum about the Gaetz investigation, though some conservative lawmakers expressed support for their GOP colleague.
Close Gaetz ally Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, was quick to defend Gaetz, telling CNN, "I believe Matt Gaetz. He should not be removed from the Judiciary Committee."
"Take it from me rumors and headlines don’t equal truth," tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who was removed from committee work earlier this year over her threatening comments regarding Democratic lawmakers. "I stand with @mattgaetz."
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., called for Gaetz's immediate removal from the House Judiciary Committee.
Most Republicans have been quiet on the matter.
But Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeted to McCarthy with quick condemnation: "You don’t seem to get it. If it’s true Rep Matt Gaetz engaged in sex trafficking, he needs to resign and be prosecuted. In the meantime, you can’t have Gaetz sitting on the Congressional Committee that has oversight over the Department that is investigating him."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kevin McCarthy: Matt Gaetz investigation allegations are 'serious'