Former President Donald Trump has weighed in on the allegations against Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), and he hasn't exactly offered the strongest defense possible.
Trump released a brief, two sentence statement on Wednesday, in which he denied that Gaetz asked him for a pardon. This followed reporting from The New York Times that Gaetz, who has been the subject of a DOJ investigation focused on whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and violated sex trafficking laws, sought a "blanket pre-emptive" pardon for himself and allies "for any crimes they may have committed."
"Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon," Trump said in his statement. "It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him."
This was the entirety of Trump's statement, which reporter Ben Jacobs dubbed quite a "half hearted defense" of his ally in Congress, while other reporters rejected the notion that it counts as a defense at all. The New York Times' Maggie Haberman had previously reported that Trump wanted to defend Gaetz, but his advisers cautioned him against it.
"His first impulse was that he wanted to defend Gaetz," Haberman said on CNN, per Mediaite. "...Several of his advisers have told him that's a very bad idea."
The Times also reported that Trump's advisers "have urged him to stay quiet and sought to distance the former president from Mr. Gaetz."
And while Trump denied that Gaetz ever personally asked him for a pardon, the Times' original report said that Gaetz "asked the White House" and that "aides told Mr. Trump of the request," but that it's "unclear whether Mr. Gaetz discussed the matter directly with the president." Brendan Morrow