Rep. Matt Gaetz privately sought a "blanket" preemptive pardon from former president Donald Trump for himself and his congressional allies in the closing weeks of his administration, new reports claim. The Florida Republican's request was viewed by White House officials as a nonstarter and was ultimately never granted, according to two people familiar with the discussions told The New York Times.
Gaetz is currently being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he violated federal sex trafficking statutes and had sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, and broke sex trafficking laws by doing so. The Times reported on Tuesday that it's unclear what Gaetz knew of the inquiry at the time of his request, and he didn't tell White House aides when he sought the pardons that he was under investigation.
Setting a Bad Precedent
It's still not clear if Gaetz or the White House was aware of the Justice Department inquiry when he made the pardon request, the outlet said. According to the Times report, Gaetz did not share with White House aides that he was under investigation for potential sex trafficking crimes when he made the request, suggesting that he did not yet know about the inquiry or that he may have had the foresight to leave the unsavory details out.
The inquiry was reportedly opened under former Attorney General William Barr before he resigned in December. Although Trump was informed about the request, it was also unclear whether Gaetz had spoken directly to him about the matter.
However, Gaetz's request for a pardon was quickly dismissed by the White House, as lawyers and officials considered such a broad move could set a bad precedent.
The outlet further reported that "in recent days, some Trump associates have speculated that Mr. Gaetz's request for a group pardon was an attempt to camouflage his own potential criminal exposure."
A spokesperson for Gaetz, denied to the Times that his pardon request was related to the Justice Department investigation. "Entry-level political operatives have conflated a pardon call from Representative Gaetz — where he called for President Trump to pardon 'everyone from himself, to his administration, to Joe Exotic' — with these false and increasingly bizarre, partisan allegations against him," the spokesperson told the Times.
Gaetz has denied all allegations against him since news broke that federal investigators are examining whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. That said, Gaetz's loyalty to Trump hasn't helped him much in recent times.
Trump along with almost every elected Republican official, has hasn't come to Gaetz's rescue even since the scandal broke. According to the Daily Beast, aides have asked Trump to stay quiet as the scandal develops.
Interestingly, in his final hours in office, Trump issued dozens of pardons for people ranging from his former adviser Steve Bannon to rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black but Gatez remained the unlucky one. As Gaetz struggles without much party support, more reports emerge detailing his character as a co-worker.
According to the Washington Post, Florida House colleagues have claimed Gatez, who reportedly showed nude photos of women he slept with to lawmakers on the House floor, opposed a law in 2015 protecting against revenge porn because he believed that the recipients of nude images could do what they wanted with them.