Rep. Matt Gaetz has shrugged off a federal probe into sex trafficking allegations as a ‘deep state’ plot, while joking the media would report that he is ‘surrounded by beautiful women’ at a Florida rally filled with senior citizens.
‘I’m a marked man in Congress, I’m a cancelled man in some corners of the internet, I might be a wanted man by the deep state,’ Gaetz said at the rally on Friday in The Villages, a massive retirement community and pro-Trump stronghold.
The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz violated sex trafficking laws by having sex with a 17-year-old girl and paying for her to travel across state lines — claims that Gaetz denies and asserts are part of a scheme to extort his family for $25 million.
‘We have a right to confront our accusers in this country,’ Gaetz, a Florida Republican, said at the rally.
‘There can be no due process here if the only process due to conservatives is to see leaks embroidered onto lies and then just endlessly repeated by the America Last media,’ he said, pointing to the cameras at the back of the room as the crowd booed.
‘CNN is just the worst. I already know — so today is my birthday, and I already know how CNN is going to report it: “Matt Gaetz Has Wild Party Surrounded By Beautiful Women in The Villages,”‘ he said. ‘So just get ready for it!’
Rep. Matt Gaetz shrugged off a federal probe into sex trafficking allegations as a ‘deep state’ plot at a rally in The Villages, Florida on Friday
‘So today is my birthday, and I already know how CNN is going to report it: “Matt Gaetz Has Wild Party Surrounded By Beautiful Women in The Villages,”‘ Gaetz said at the rally
There are no formal charges against the congressman and no woman has publicly accused him of wrongdoing.
Federal investigators are, however, looking into if Gaetz had sexual relations with a minor or paid for sex. The House Ethics Committee also opened a probe to ‘gather additional information’ about the accusations revealed against Gaetz.
The rally came just a week before Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg faces a deadline to enter a plea deal that could lead to damaging information against the Florida congressman.
What began as an inquiry into sex trafficking allegations and whether Gaetz paid women and an underage girl in exchange for sex has grown into a larger review of public corruption.
Federal investigators are looking at whether Gaetz and his associates tried to secure government jobs for some of the women. They are also scrutinizing Gaetz’s connections to the medical marijuana sector.
Greenberg, a former local tax collector, has been accused of trafficking a minor for sex and faces a May 15 deadline to strike a plea deal with prosecutors.
Former Seminole County Tax Collector, Joel Greenberg (right), seen here in this 2017 photo with longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone (left) and Rep. Gaetz (middle) is facing sex trafficking charges related to a girl between the ages of 14 and 17
If he does, Greenberg may be pressed to cooperate with federal investigators and deliver damaging information against Gaetz.
At Friday’s rally, Gaetz was joined by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the freshman Republican from Georgia, and like Gaetz a strong ally of Donald Trump.
The event marked the launch of the duo’s ‘America First Rally’, an ambitious attempt to force party leadership to fall in line with their pro-Trump faction of the party.
‘We’ve got this battle going on right now for the soul of the Republican Party,’ Gaetz told the roaring crowd of senior citizens. ‘Maybe we’re the leaders, Marjorie. Maybe they should follow us!’
‘Today, we send a strong message to the weak establishment in both parties: America First isn’t going away. We are going on tour,’ Gaetz said.
It comes as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is focused on winning back GOP control of the House next year, faces tough decisions about whether siding with the populist faction represented by Gaetz and Greene will help or hurt the party in the midterms.
As soon as next week, McCarthy is expected to lead the party to an inflection point by calling a vote on whether to dump Rep. Liz Cheney, who is outspoken in condemning Trump’s election fraud claims, from the No. 3 House leadership position.
At Friday’s rally, Gaetz was joined by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the freshman Republican from Georgia, and like Gaetz a strong ally of Donald Trump
Some 300 supporters, mostly retirees, packed into a hotel ballroom to listen them. A long line trailed outside the hotel with people who couldn’t get in
People walk past a bus wrapped with President Donald Trump photos during a Gaetz/Greene rally on Friday in The Villages
The rally was extraordinary in the amount of time the duo spent tearing into their own GOP colleagues — though rarely by name, with the exception of Cheney.
‘If Liz Cheney could even find Wyoming on a map and went there, she would find a lot of very angry cowboys who are not happy with the fact that she’s sorta for every war,’ said Gaetz, referring to Cheney’s home district.
‘I didn’t go to the Republican retreat, because I feel like the Republicans have been in a constant state of retreat,’ said Gaetz, referring to the annual House GOP retreat held last month in Orlando. ‘I’m ready for an advance, not a retreat!’
‘They go to the retreat and basically the whole retreat is Kevin McCarthy fighting with Liz Cheney,’ he said. ‘Why did they not listen to us like, three four months ago when we said, this is not going to work?’
‘When somebody’s fundamental view is that we don’t need to work on election integrity, we don’t need to worry about the crisis at the border, we could find four more countries to invade before lunchtime tomorrow – that person should not be the spokesperson for the Republican Party,’ Gaetz said of Cheney.
Some 300 supporters, mostly retirees, packed into a hotel ballroom to listen them. A long line trailed outside the hotel with people who couldn’t get in once the ballroom reached capacity.
The Villages, which was the fastest growing U.S. metro area last year, has been a Republican bastion for decades and is often a must-stop destination for Republican presidential candidates.