DOJ examining whether Rep. Matt Gaetz obstructed justice in sex crimes inquiry
Federal authorities are examining whether Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., obstructed an ongoing investigation during a telephone call involving a witness, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.
The obstruction inquiry, first reported by Politico, grew out of an existing investigation into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a minor.
The telephone call at issue involved Gaetz's ex-girlfriend and a witness, and at some point during the call Gaetz joined the conversation.
The source, who is not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, declined to elaborate on the nature of the discussion.
Federal authorities have been investigating whether Gaetz had sex with an underage girl, then 17, and paid for her to travel with him. The three-term congressman who represents the Florida Panhandle has not been charged with a crime. He has denied any wrongdoing and argued that he is the victim of a complicated extortion scheme.
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The possible legal jeopardy confronting Gaetz grew last month when former Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector, agreed to a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
Justice Department officials declined comment Thursday.
In a statement, a Gaetz spokesperson questioned the legitimacy of the inquiry.
“Congressman Gaetz pursues justice, he doesn’t obstruct it," the statement said. "The anonymous allegations have thus far amounted to lies, wrapped in leaks, rooted in an extortion plot by a former DOJ official. After two months, there is still not a single on-record accusation of misconduct, and now the 'story' is changing yet again. Rep. Gaetz's legal team continues to investigate the attempted extortion of a sitting U.S. Congressman and anyone who may be connected to it.”
Gaetz declared in an April 5 column for the Washingbbton Examiner that "first, I have never, ever paid for sex. And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old." He went on to write that he was "absolutely not resigning."
Republicans mostly have kept silent about Gaetz since the probe was announced, though Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., has called for his resignation.
And former House Speaker John Boehner, once the nation's highest-ranking Republican, told USA TODAY that Gaetz should resign if he is indicted. If the Florida congressman refuses, Boehner said, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy should move to expel him.
Contributing: Ledge King