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The New York Times

How Matt Gaetz Got Here

The Justice Department is investigating whether Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican and close ally of former President Donald Trump, broke federal sex trafficking laws. The inquiry focuses on his relationships with young women who had been recruited online, and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. Investigators believe that he paid for sex with a number of women he met through Joel Greenberg — a former Florida tax collector who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge, among other offenses — people close to the investigation told The New York Times. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for an Ethics Committee inquiry into Gaetz’s involvement with the women, as revelations continue trickling out around the Justice Department investigation. Gaetz has denied paying for sex or sleeping with anyone underage, but it’s clear that the story is far from over. And he’s increasingly isolated: Few Republicans have spoken up in support of him, and his own communications director, Luke Ball, resigned. Here’s a look at how Gaetz got to this point, and where things may go from here. Who is Matt Gaetz? Gaetz, 38, was elected in 2016 to represent Florida’s 1st District, the westernmost and most heavily Republican patch of a state that became ground zero for Trump’s brand of Republican politics. He comes from a political family: His father, Don Gaetz, was the president of the Florida State Senate, and a grandfather had been a Republican politician in North Dakota. Matt attended college at Florida State University before getting a law degree from William and Mary. During his four-plus years in the U.S. House, Gaetz has been one of Trump’s most virulent defenders — and an unabashed enabler of his most outlandish claims, appearing frequently on Fox News and other conservative outlets. When Democrats led the first impeachment inquiry into Trump, in 2019, Gaetz joined other Republican lawmakers in storming past security and into the private quarters of the House Intelligence Committee in an attempt to break up the meeting. Soon after the coronavirus pandemic began, he wore a gas mask on the House floor, in what many saw as trolling — although Gaetz said that he was only showing his concern for health and safety. He also brought a right-wing Holocaust denier to the State of the Union address in 2018. Soon after he arrived in Congress, Gaetz became the only lawmaker in Washington to vote against a 2017 bill giving the federal government more power and resources to fight human trafficking. The allegations are shocking to many. But in Washington, are they surprising? You might think that Republicans in Washington would be in an uproar over reports that a prominent young lawmaker was being accused of sex with an underage girl. But it’s being reported that he’s long had a reputation among colleagues for aberrant behavior, including a fondness for illicit drugs and younger women — and members of his own party had learned to keep their distance. Multiple people told CNN that Gaetz had a history of showing off nude photos and videos of women that he said he’d slept with to colleagues on the House floor. Gaetz himself has admitted to being unpopular in Washington — although, in classic Trumpian fashion, he tried to reframe his unpopularity as a virtue. “As for the Hill, I know I have many enemies and few friends,” he told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “My support generally lies outside of Washington, D.C., and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Most prominent Republicans appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to the scandal and have remained mostly silent as the Justice Department moves ahead with its investigation. So, what’s next? Pelosi isn’t the only House leader to have said that Gaetz ought to face consequences, if the allegations are true. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, has said that Gaetz would lose his committee appointments if he were indicted, as is required under House rules. (He sits on the House Armed Services, Budget and Judiciary committees.) It’s possible, of course, that Gaetz will follow the example set by Trump, his political mentor, who rode out many scandals of his own involving accusations of sexual misconduct — including rape — by largely ignoring the allegations. On the Democratic side, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has so far kept his own ship afloat even as numerous allegations of sexual impropriety have come out against him, including from his former employees. Gaetz also may be facing some uncertainty on the homefront: In December he became engaged to Ginger Luckey, 26, a Harvard Business School student, in what seemed like a match made in MAGA heaven: The couple met at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida resort. So far there have been no public reports about the impact of the scandal on their relationship. Does Gaetz moonlight for Media Matters? No, Matt Gaetz is not a double agent who also works for a left-leaning, Fox News-bashing research organization. That guy is Matt Gertz — and he’s been having a heck of a time (not to mention, raking in the likes on Twitter) with the recent news. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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