In late March, it became known that the Florida congressman was being investigated for having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. According to several American media, it is also being investigated whether Gaetz has been guilty of human trafficking by paying for her travels. Gaetz denies all charges.
President Trump has stayed away from the case in public, until now.
Trump: – Never asked me
On Wednesday night, Trump broke the silence and made a brief statement in connection with a recent New York Times article.
The article revealed that Gaetz was allegedly trying to obtain a pardon from Trump, who was in his final days in the presidency at the time.
In the statement, Trump says that Gaetz “has never asked me for a pardon.” He also comes with support for his party colleague and supporter:
“One must also remember that he has denied all the accusations against him,” Trump said.
Few Republicans have defended the Florida representative. Among those who support him is controversial Republican Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, according to The Guardian.
A few days before Trump’s statement, Politico wrote that Gaetz is now “persona non grata in the Trump world.” A point was then made that neither Trump nor anyone else in the former president’s circle stood by Gaetz’s side.
– A very bad idea
According to the Daily Beast, Trump had followed developments in the case, but had been advised to remain silent.
New York Times reporter and political analyst for CNN Maggie Haberman claims that Trump’s first impulse when the case came out in the New York Times last week was to defend Gaetz.
– Several of his advisers told him that it was a very bad idea, she says and continues:
Gaetz defended him during both high court cases. Trump liked him. Trump’s employees have always had problems with him, says Haberman.
Claiming Gaetz asked for pardon
On Tuesday, the New York Times wrote that during Trump’s last weeks in the presidency, Gaetz asked the White House for a kind of pardon for himself and unidentified allies in Congress for any criminal act they may have committed.
At the same time, Gaetz spoke out – in public – for Trump to pardon many for preventing what he called the “bloodlust” of their political opponents. But even then, the Ministry of Justice had begun to interrogate Gaetz’s employees about his behavior, the newspaper writes.
It is unclear whether Gaetz or the White House at this time knew about the investigation or who else he was trying to pardon.
At least there was no pardon for Gaetz, and according to the newspaper, officials and lawyers at the White House must have been concerned that such a pardon could set a bad precedent.
Advisers are said to have told the president about the request. Trump has now himself gone out and said that he has not discussed the matter directly with Gaetz.
“The recent false accusations against me are not something I have ever discussed with Trump, pardons or anything else,” Gaetz told Politico on Tuesday.
Pardoned 73 people
Pardons are common towards the end of a presidential term. In his last full day as President of the United States, Trump pardoned 73 people, including his former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former congressional representative Robin Hayes.
Trump also pardoned Elliott Broidy, one of his fundraisers. In October, Broidy pleaded guilty to illegal lobbying against the Trump administration on behalf of China and Malaysia.
Trump had already pardoned a number of longtime employees and supporters.
Among them were his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama pardoned 212 people and reduced the sentence to 1,715 people during two presidential terms. The number of conversions was higher than the total number of 13 previous presidents.
Gaetz himself has confirmed that he is under investigation, and stubbornly denies all charges. He has also claimed that the accusations are based on an attempt to blackmail him.
– I mean there are people in the Ministry of Justice who try to criminalize my sexual behavior when I was single, he has told Axios.
The investigation is to be part of a larger investigation against a political ally of Gaetz in Florida, Joel Greenberg, who was charged with human trafficking and a number of other counts last summer. Greenberg denies criminal guilt.
– Shown nude photos in Congress
Last week, CNN and The Washington Post, both of which cited unnamed sources, wrote that Gaetz had shown pictures of naked women, and discussed his own sexual intercourse with them, to both members of Congress and local politicians in Florida.
The pictures are said to have been shown in private contexts, and according to CNN’s sources also in the congress building itself.
However, there is no indication that the alleged images are linked to the investigation, or that they showed minors, the media wrote.
According to The Washington Post, Gaetz is said to have boasted about the “access” he had to women via the human trafficking accused Republican Joel Greenberg.
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