Matt Gaetz has told an Ohio rally he is ‘being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors’ after his alleged wingman agreed to cooperate with federal investigators in their ongoing child sex trafficking investigation.
The Republican congressman also compared controversial earmarks – which allow funding for House members’ personal projects – to the probe, NBC reports.
Gaetz told the crowd Saturday: ‘I’m being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors.
‘Yet, Congress has reinstituted a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors, through earmarks, and everybody knows that that’s the corruption.’
He received a standing ovation for his keynote speech to around 400 Republicans at the Ohio Political Summit. A number of Republican candidates are reported to have backed out of the event due to Gaetz’s involvement.
On Friday federal prosecutors dropped 27 charges against Gaetz’s alleged wingman, Joel Greenberg, in exchange for his cooperation and testimony.
His cooperation as a close associate of Gaetz signals a significant escalation in the Justice Department´s investigation and potentially raises the legal and political jeopardy the Florida congressman is facing.
Earmarks have traditionally been used to pay for much-needed infrastructure projects. They have come under increased scrutiny of late after a decade-long ban was overturned, allowing Democratic and Republican lawmakers to insert funding projects into appropriation bills.
Matt Gaetz has told an Ohio rally he is ‘being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors’ after his wingman agreed to cooperate with federal investigators in their ongoing child sex trafficking investigation
The Republican congressman also compared controversial earmarks – which allow funding for House members’ personal projects – to the probe, NBC reports. Gaetz told the crowd Saturday: ‘I’m being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors. ‘Yet, Congress has reinstituted a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors, through earmarks, and everybody knows that that’s the corruption’
Greenberg is expected to plead guilty to six federal charges – including sex trafficking of a child – during a court appearance in Orlando on Monday. He had been facing 33 counts with a maximum of life behind bars.
In March, it was revealed that Gaetz is under investigation for allegedly having sex with a 17-year-old girl and trafficking her across state lines.
Investigators are also looking into allegations he paid women for ecstasy-fueled sex at Florida hotels after being introduced to them by Greenberg.
The plea agreement makes no mention of Gaetz, who has vehemently denied the allegations and any wrongdoing and has insisted he will not resign his seat in Congress. He has not been charged with any crime.
As part of his plea agreement, Greenberg admitted that he recruited women for commercial sex acts and paid them more than $70,000 from 2016 to 2018, including at least one underage girl he paid to have sex with him and others.
Prosecutors say Greenberg met the girl online – from a website where she was posing as an adult – and had a first meeting with her on a boat, paying her $400.
He later invited her to a hotels in Florida, where he and others would have sex with her and also supplied the girl and other people with ecstasy, according to the plea deal. In total, prosecutors say Greenberg had sex with the girl at least seven times.
Gaetz received a standing ovation for his keynote speech to around 400 Republicans at the Ohio Political Summit
A number of Republican candidates are reported to have backed out of the event due to Gaetz’s involvement. Several fans posed for selfies with the Republican
‘Greenberg also introduced the Minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts with the Minor,’ the plea agreement states. The plea deal, signed Wednesday, does not identify the men.
Prosecutors say Greenberg also used his position as the Seminole County tax collector to access a state driver´s information database to ‘investigate’ the women he was having sex with and had searched for the underage girl at least once because he ‘had reason to believe the minor was under the age of 18,’ the plea agreement says.
For prosecutors to agree to reduce the charges from a staggering 33 to just six indicates that Greenberg has handed over information that is of significant value, legal experts told Business Insider on Thursday.
Greenberg´s legal problems began last summer when he was arrested on charges of stalking a political opponent.
He mailed fake letters to the school where his opponent taught, signed by a nonexistent ‘very concerned student’ who alleged the teacher had engaged in sexual misconduct with another student, according to an indictment filed against him.
Greenberg was charged in August with sex trafficking a girl between ages 14 and 17 and using a state database to look up information about the girl and other people with whom he was engaged in ‘sugar daddy’ relationships, according to the indictment.
Charges on allegations he embezzled $400,000 from the Seminole County tax collector´s office were added earlier this year, according to the indictment.
On Friday federal prosecutors dropped 27 charges against Gaetz’s alleged wingman, Joel Greenberg, in exchange for his cooperation and testimony
Roger Stone, Matt Gaetz and Joel Greenberg pictured in a selfie together in 2017. Matt Gaetz ‘s alleged wingman Joel Greenberg has reportedly agreed to plead guilty to six felony counts
Investigators have also been looking at whether Gaetz and his associates tried to secure government jobs for some of the women, the people said.
They are also scrutinizing Gaetz´s connections to the medical marijuana sector, including whether his associates sought to influence legislation Gaetz sponsored.
The people had knowledge of the investigation but spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to publicly discuss the ongoing investigation.
Greenberg allegedly confessed in a letter to Donald Trump ally Roger Stone that the pair paid for sex with the 17-year-old girl in a bid to get a pardon from the then-President, the Daily Beast reported.
‘On more than one occasion, [the 17-year-old] was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,’ Greenberg reportedly wrote in the letter.
One message said to have been sent by Greenberg to Stone allegedly said he was pressured to ‘flip’ and cooperate with prosecutors.
Gaetz’s wider actions in congress have also come under close scrutiny in recent weeks, with claims he showed off nude photos of women he said he had slept with to other lawmakers on the House floor and that he played a sleazy Harry Potter themed sex game scoring points for sleeping with married colleagues, virgins and in sorority houses.
Gaetz, 38, and his fiancée Ginger Luckey, 26, in a photo shared on Twitter by Gaetz on December 10 under a photograph of Ronald Reagan
Gaetz with Trump. Greenberg is said to be cooperating with federal investigators for months amid the probe into the congressman
Gaetz and Greenberg pictured together at the White House. To reduce charges from 33 to 6 indicates Greenberg has valuable information for prosecutors, say legal experts
It has also been claimed that he regularly attended gated community house parties with other Republican lawmakers where cellphones were handed over at the door and the ‘frat party boy’ Florida representative would discuss politics while popping pills.
Meanwhile, as well as the federal investigation, the House Ethics Committee has also launched an inquiry into a string of allegations including ‘sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct.’
In a bizarre twist in the saga, the lawmaker has instead claimed he is the victim of an elaborate extortion plot by a former Justice Department official seeking to free an American hostage from Iran.
‘The first indictment of Joel Greenberg alleges that he falsely accused another man of sex with a minor for his own gain. That man was apparently innocent. So is Congressman Gaetz,’ said Harlan Hill, a spokesman for the lawmaker.