Gaetz sought pardon related to Justice Department sex trafficking probe

Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) advised a former White House aide that he was looking for a preemptive pardon from President Donald Trump relating to an investigation through which he’s a goal, in accordance to testimony given to the House choose committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Johnny McEntee, in accordance to folks accustomed to his testimony, advised investigators that Gaetz advised him throughout a quick assembly “that they are launching an investigation into him or that there’s an investigation into him,” with out specifying who was investigating Gaetz.

McEntee added that Gaetz advised him “he did not do anything wrong but they are trying to make his life hell, and you know, if the president could give him a pardon, that would be great.” Gaetz advised McEntee that he had requested White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for a pardon.

Asked by investigators if Gaetz’s request for a pardon was within the context of the Justice Department investigation into whether or not Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking legal guidelines, McEntee replied, “I think that was the context, yes,” in accordance to folks accustomed to the testimony who spoke on the situation of anonymity to focus on delicate issues.

The testimony is the primary indication that Gaetz was particularly looking for a pardon for his personal publicity related to the Justice Department inquiry into whether or not he violated sex trafficking legal guidelines. His public posture within the remaining months of the Trump administration was a lot much less particular, repeatedly calling for broad preemptive pardons to fend off potential Democratic investigations.

McEntee testified that Gaetz met him briefly one night and mentioned the problem of a pardon however McEntee couldn’t recall whether or not their dialog occurred earlier than or after the Jan. 6, 2021, revolt, in accordance to folks accustomed to the testimony.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) first received concerned in politics a decade in the past. It did not take him lengthy to discover stardom within the Republican Party. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The Justice Department investigation into whether or not Gaetz paid for sex, paid for ladies to journey throughout state traces to have sex, and had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, was opened within the final months of the Trump administration with approval from Attorney General William P. Barr. The probe stemmed from a federal investigation of Gaetz’s good friend who’s now a convicted sex trafficker. Gaetz has denied paying for sex or having sex with a minor as an grownup.

McEntee didn’t reply to repeated requests for remark. Neither Meadows nor his lawyer instantly responded to requests for remark. A spokesperson for Gaetz declined to handle the testimony or whether or not Gaetz mentioned a pardon with McEntee or Meadows and as a substitute responded that Gaetz by no means immediately requested Trump for a pardon.

What to know about the sex trafficking probe involving Matt Gaetz

“Congressman Matt Gaetz discussed pardons for many other people publicly and privately at the end of President Donald Trump’s first term,” the spokesperson wrote in an e-mail. “As for himself, President Trump addressed this malicious rumor more than a year ago stating, ‘Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon.’ Rep. Gaetz continues to stand by President Trump’s statement.”

The House choose committee additionally declined to remark. The FBI additionally declined to remark.

Gaetz has not been charged with any crimes however Joel Greenberg, a Gaetz affiliate and former tax collector for Seminole County, Fla., pleaded responsible within the spring of 2021 to six legal costs, together with sex trafficking of a minor. Greenberg agreed to cooperate absolutely with prosecutors and testify in courtroom, and has been offering investigators with details about Gaetz since 2020, The Washington Post previously reported.

Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector for Seminole County, Fla., pleaded responsible on May 17 to sex trafficking of a minor and a bunch of different crimes. (Video: Reuters, Photo: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel through AP and Jabin Botsford/Reuters)

“The last time I had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, I was 17,” Gaetz has previously said. On Nov. 25, 2020, weeks after Trump misplaced the presidential election, Gaetz advised Fox News that Trump “should pardon everyone from himself to his administration officials to Joe Exotic if he has to.”

Cassidy Hutchinson, a high White House aide to Meadows, advised the House choose committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault that she recalled Gaetz and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) each advocating for a “blanket pardon” for lawmakers who attended a Dec. 21, 2020, assembly on the White House to focus on efforts to overturn the outcomes of the 2020 election. In the beforehand aired testimony, she stated in addition they advocated for pardons for “a handful of other members that were not at the December 21st meeting.”

Hutchinson added that Gaetz, nevertheless, “was personally pushing” for a pardon “since early December.” But the main target of that pardon request was not clear from Hutchinson’s testimony. “I’m not sure why Mr. Gaetz would reach out to me to ask if he could have a meeting with Mr. Meadows about receiving a presidential pardon,” she added.

Brooks, who put a request for a pardon in an e-mail to a White House aide on the time, defended his actions in a press release after Hutchinson’s testimony saying, “There was a concern Democrats would abuse the judicial system by prosecuting and jailing Republicans” for objecting in Congress to the certification of the election.

Eric Herschmann, a former Trump White House lawyer, advised investigators that he additionally believed that Gaetz was looking for a pardon, in accordance to an excerpt of the deposition performed throughout one of many committee’s public hearings.

“The general tone was, we may get prosecuted because we were defensive of, you know, the president’s positions on these things,” Herschmann recalled. “The pardon that he was discussing requesting was as broad as you can describe, from the beginning — I remember he is — from the beginning of time up until today for any and all things. Then he mentioned Nixon. And I said Nixon’s pardon was never nearly that broad.”

Gaetz in the end didn’t obtain a pardon from Trump.

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