Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told a former White House aide that he sought a preemptive presidential pardon in a sex trafficking investigation, according to testimony before members of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
A probe launched in the waning days of the Trump administration is reportedly still seeking to determine if Gaetz broke federal law by allegedly recruiting women online for paid sex, including a teenager. He has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.
Some of the alleged interactions with women occurred with the help of former Gaetz “wingman” Joel Greenberg. The one-time Seminole County tax collector pleaded guilty last year to six crimes, including trafficking a minor. He has been cooperating with federal investigators, and turned over “years of Venmo and Cash App transactions and thousands of photos and videos,” ABC News reported last year.
Johnny McEntee, a White House aide, recently testified that Gaetz told him he sought a presidential pardon from former President Donald Trump’s then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the trafficking investigation, sources familiar with the testimony told the Post.
McEntee recounted that Gaetz told 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,” the Post reported.
Gaetz didn’t specify that it was the Justice Department conducting the probe, but McEntee said he assumed that was the investigation he was referring to, the Post reported.
The testimony is the first linking Gaetz to a specific request for a pardon in the trafficking probe, the outlet noted. The Jan. 6 panel revealed this summer that Gaetz was among at least five Republican lawmakers who sought broad pardons from Trump to protect them from potential insurrection crimes investigations might uncover.
Neither McEntee nor Meadows responded to the Post’s request for comment. A representative for Gaetz pointed out that the Republican lawmaker never asked Trump directly for a pardon, but did not comment on a request submitted through Meadows.
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 email to the Post. “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.’”