WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Rep. Matt Gaetz said Monday he will not leave Congress and denied that he “slept with” an underage girl, suggesting that accusations against him by political foes stem from anger.
In a column appearing in the Washington Examiner, a conservative news outlet, the embattled Florida Republican predicted that “some of my feckless colleagues in Congress” will call for him to step down.
“No, I am absolutely not resigning,” he wrote Monday in one of his first public comments about the allegations.
Gaetz, starting his fifth year in Congress, has been battling to preserve his political career since reports last week that he is under federal investigation for possible sex crimes. A high-profile ally of Donald Trump, Gaetz has so far received almost no public support from his congressional Republican colleagues and none from the former president.
The 38-year-old Gaetz is under scrutiny by federal prosecutors over whether he had sex with a 17-year-old and other underage girls and violated federal sex trafficking laws. That’s according to people familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press because they could not discuss details publicly.
Gaetz, who has not been charged with any crimes, denied the accusations Monday.
“First, I have never, ever paid for sex,” he wrote. “And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old.”
Engaged since New Year’s Eve, he wrote, “My lifestyle of yesteryear may be different from how I live now, but it was not and is not illegal.”
Gaetz used his column to attack Democrats, news organizations and others, contending his enemies are “just repeating false allegations about a congressman who loathes the swamp and fights both sides of it on a daily basis.”
He also predicted, “I’m sure some partisan crooks in Merrick Garland’s Justice Department want to pervert the truth and the law to go after me.”
The FBI, the Biden administration’s Justice Department and “the Cheney political dynasty” were among the entities Gaetz accused of unjustly targeting him.
The Justice Department investigation began last year while Trump was still president and reached the highest levels of the Justice Department; former Attorney General William Barr was briefed on the matter several times, the people who spoke to the AP said.
Gaetz helped lead an unsuccessful battle in January to depose Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, from her job as No. 3 House GOP leader. Days earlier, she was among just 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump.
Gaetz’s article was published the same day a former congressional aide told reporters he was interviewed last week by the FBI. Nathan Nelson, a military adviser who left Gaetz’s office in October, said he was questioned about whether he’d left that job because he knew of Gaetz’s “involvement in illegal activities.”
“I’m here this morning to state that nothing could be farther from the truth. Neither I nor any other member of Congressman Gaetz’s staff had any knowledge of illegal activities,” Nelson said at his home in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.
Nelson provided no specific details about the FBI’s questioning. Without detailing them, he said he believes the charges against Gaetz are false.
Democrats have called on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to strip Gaetz of his committee assignments while the federal probe is underway, especially his seat on the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Justice Department. Gaetz also sits on the House Armed Services Committee.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that Gaetz should be at a minimum removed from the House Judiciary Committee if the claims are true.
“If in fact these allegations are true, of course being removed from the Judiciary Committee is the least that could be done,” Pelosi told reporters. She added, “From what we’ve heard so far, this would be a matter for the Ethics Committee.”
McCarthy, R-Calif., said last week that the accusations were “serious” and that if proved, Gaetz would be removed from committees.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reporting by the AP’s Alan Fram