Not long before former President Donald Trump left office, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) privately approached the White House and asked for blanket preemptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies to cover any crimes they may have committed, two people with knowledge of the discussions told The New York Times.
Last week, the Times reported that Gaetz is the subject of a Justice Department investigation into whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl, traveled with her across state lines, and paid women he recruited to have sex. People familiar with the matter told the Times this is part of a larger probe into one of Gaetz's associates, Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector of Seminole County, Florida. Greenberg has been charged with child sex trafficking.
The DOJ investigation was launched during the final months of the Trump administration, but it isn't clear if Gaetz or the White House knew about it, the Times reports. Gaetz is a staunch Trump supporter who routinely defended and praised him on television shows, and after the November election he appeared on Fox News and announced Trump needed to "pardon everyone" before leaving office, claiming it would protect Trump's allies from the "bloodlust" of the "radical left."
Aides did tell Trump about Gaetz's request, the Times reports, but White House lawyers quickly shut down the idea, believing a preemptive pardon would set a bad precedent. It's unclear if Gaetz spoke directly with Trump about getting a pardon, and some of the former president's associates are now wondering if Gaetz asked for a group pardon in order to distract from his own criminal exposure, the Times reports.
Gaetz has denied having sex with a 17-year-old girl, and his spokesman told the Times that the congressman never requested a pardon, calling this the latest in a string of "false and increasingly bizarre, partisan allegations against him."