Allegations emerged on Monday that the Justice Department was investigating Gaetz over an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl around two years ago. The congressman claimed in interviews with U.S. news outlets that the allegations were part of an extortion plot by a former Department of Justice official.
Gaetz, who represents parts of western Florida, is accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paying her to travel with him, and he is under investigation to determine if he violated federal sex trafficking laws, a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press. "I only know that it has to do with women", saidGaetz to the Times.
Later on in the show, Carlson - still looking surprised - appeared to distance himself further from Gaetz, saying: "That was one of the weirdest interviews I've ever conducted".
The Republican congressman is a controversial figure. "That is totally false", Gaetz told Carlson in a Tuesday night interview.
Attorney General William Barr opened the investigation in the waning days of the Trump administration and notified senior officials in the Justice Department due to Gaetz's national profile, according to the report, which stressed no charges have been brought against the congressman.
In a statement on Tuesday, Gaetz said he is cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and that his father "has even been wearing a wire at the FBI's direction". "I don't think that clarified much, but it certainly showed this is a deeply interesting story".
"This is a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that Matt Gaetz is apparently about to be indicted for sex trafficking underage girls", said McGee to the Daily Beast.
In an interview with Axios, he added that the specifics of the allegations are "unclear" and he's been told "very little" about the investigation and that his lawyers were informed he was "not a target but a subject of an investigation regarding sexual conduct with women".
The Florida congressman told The Times, "I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward". He demanded the Justice Department release the recordings.
Gaetz alleges the investigation is connected to an attempt to extort him and his family by a former DOJ official.
Gaetz said his family has been cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and said his father was wearing a recording device, at the FBI's direction, "to catch these criminals".
"No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation", he said. I do believe there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to smear me.
The investigation is part of a larger inquiry into former Seminole County tax collector and friend Joel Greenberg, who was charged past year with 14 felony counts accusing him of stalking a political opponent, using a state database to create fake IDs, and sex trafficking a minor between the ages of 14 and 17, reports the Times. Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people you are dating, who are of legal age, is not a crime. "I've been traveling. We've going to a vaccination facility here just shortly, but later this afternoon, I hope to be able to speak with Mr. Gaetz".
Neither Gaetz's office nor a Fox News spokesperson immediately responded to a request for comment from The Washington Post early on Wednesday morning.