- The DOJ is probing whether Rep. Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a minor and paid for her travel.
- The investigation started last year, when Bill Barr was the Trump-appointed attorney general.
- Barr avoided being seen near Gaetz in public, and pulled out of an event to avoid him, Politico reported.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr actively avoided Rep. Matt Gaetz in public while the Justice Department was conducting a sex-trafficking investigation into the Florida representative, Politico reported.
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the DOJ has been investigating whether Gaetz, 38, broke sex-trafficking laws by having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paying for her travel. Gaetz has since confirmed the existence of investigation.
The inquiry is part of a larger DOJ investigation into Joel Greenberg, a Florida tax collector, the Times reported. Greenberg was charged last year with a number of felony counts, including trafficking a minor between the ages of 14 and 17. Gaetz has not been charged with a crime.
The investigation into Gaetz began last year near the end of President Donald Trump’s term, while Barr was serving as US attorney general, the Times reported. Barr and other senior Trump appointees at the DOJ were also aware of the investigation at the time, Politico reported.
As this was going on, Barr went to lengths to avoid being seen with Gaetz in public, Politico reported, citing an unnamed person with knowledge of the investigation.
On one occasion, Politico reported, the Justice Department even pulled Barr out of a social meeting with Republican Party members of the House Judiciary Committee when it saw that Gaetz was also attending.
Insider has contacted the DOJ for comment.
Read more: Matt Gaetz is adding to his legal woes with a media blitz that could torpedo his defense if he’s charged with a federal sex crime, DOJ veterans say
Investigators are examining whether Gaetz paid for the 17-year-old to travel across state lines in 2019, which could be a violation of sex-trafficking laws.
Gaetz denies breaking any laws. “I believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to criminalize my sexual conduct,” he told Axios.
“I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I’ve dated. You know, I’ve paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not.”
Gaetz also told investigators on the Greenberg probe that the allegations are connected to a $25 million extortion attempt by the former federal prosecutor David McGee.
McGee, now a lawyer in Florida, denies the allegations and told The Daily Beast that it was “a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that Matt Gaetz is apparently about to indicted for sex trafficking underage girls.”
On Tuesday, the same day that news of the allegations against Gaetz broke, Axios reported that Gaetz was considering leaving politics and hoped to secure a spot on Newsmax, a conservative TV network.
Gaetz told The Daily Beast: “I’ve talked to either executives, producers or hosts at Newsmax, OAN, Fox, Fox Business, Real America’s Voice and probably others I’m forgetting.”
However, a Fox News spokesperson told the outlet: “We have no interest in hiring him.”
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