The scandal around Republican congressperson Matt Gaetz keeps swirling and growing. This story has legs, as the kids say these days, meaning that more and more details will emerge as days go by. My feeling is that, even given the penchant that Republicans have for protecting their own at all costs, his days as an elected official are numbered. Even his stated desire to be a TV personality on a right wing news channel seems unlikely to be fulfilled until he spends some time in the wilderness and people forget. That is assuming he stays out of prison. The key thing to bear in mind is that the really serious offense is that he engaged in sex with an underage woman and transported her across state lines. That is the biggest threat to him. Another charge that could put him in trouble is that he used campaign funds to pay for his personal expenses, including presumably for sex.
Investigators apparently stumbled into Gaetz’s role in all this when they were looking into sex trafficking by Joel Greenberg, another Florida politician who is a friend of Gaetz. There is this weird story of the two of them using Greenberg’s access to the Florida drivers license system to, for reasons yet unknown, peruse people’s licenses. It was Greenberg’s text responses to queries about this that apparently led investigators to Gaetz.
He seems to be determined to distance himself from the charge that he paid women for sex, perhaps feeling that its reflects poorly on his attractiveness that he needs to do so. Instead he keeps insisting that he is just ‘very generous’ with his girl friends by giving them lavish gifts, airline tickets, meals, and hotels, though the women tell a very different story.
In encounters during 2019 and 2020, Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg instructed the women to meet at certain times and places, often at hotels around Florida, and would tell them the amount of money they were willing to pay, according to the messages and interviews.
One person said that the men also paid in cash, sometimes withdrawn from a hotel ATM.
Some of the men and women took ecstasy, an illegal mood-altering drug, before having sex, including Mr. Gaetz, two people familiar with the encounters said.
I have argued elsewhere that sex work should not be a criminal offense. Apart from the other arguments against it, it is often the sex workers who are harassed by police and the authorities and punished severely under these laws, while the people who pay for their services are treated lightly.
Gaetz has become so toxic that even Trump, whose praises Gaetz was constantly singing, has not come to his defense. What is also notable is that his fellow congressional Republicans are not only keeping their distance from him, they are even dishing more dirt.
But Gaetz’s lack of support is a minor issue when compared to the growing number of people who are willing to spill sordid new details about his creepy behavior. Multiple people told CNN for a Thursday report that in his two terms as a Florida congressman, Gaetz built a reputation for regularly bragging about his sexual affairs, even showing nude photos and videos of women he said he’d slept with to colleagues on the House floor. One such video reportedly depicted a naked woman using a hula hoop. (CNN doesn’t identify their sources’ political affiliations, but one could safely assume that Gaetz probably wasn’t showing off to his Democratic colleagues.) That comes as Politico reports that then-Attorney General Bill Barr, upon learning of the Justice Department probe into Gaetz last summer, deliberately avoided even being in the same room as Gaetz in order not to appear anywhere near him.
Now a young female Florida Democratic state legislator has come forward with information about being strangely approached by Greenberg and Gaetz, in what looks like a grooming effort.
So it looks like at least some of the claims of QAnon, that there is a sex-trafficking operation being run by Washington politicians, may be true. It is just not by the party and people they thought it was.