- A rising star of the Republican Party is bogged down in a politico-sexual controversy.
- Authorities are investigating whether Matt Gaetz paid for sex, and whether one of the young women was underage.
- This fervent supporter of Donald Trump finds himself more and more isolated but refuses to resign.
From our correspondent in the United States,
For two weeks, the soap opera has made the headlines of the American press. Matt Gaetz, a young Florida elected official in the House and a big supporter of Donald Trump, finds himself mired in a case that could well implode his career. Suspected of having paid for sex, potentially with a 17-year-old minor, Gaetz says from the start the victim of an attempted extortion and ensures that he will not resign. But every day brings its share of revelations, and neither his colleagues nor Donald Trump are scrambling to come to his aid.
- What is Matt Gaetz suspected of?
At the end of March, the New York Times reveals that the 38-year-old parliamentarian has been the target for months of an investigation into suspicion of “sexual exploitation of a minor”. US laws are such that if Matt Gaetz paid a fee (hotel, plane) to travel young women out of their state and have sex for a fee, the charges could even reach the level of “sex trafficking”. According to CBS, the American authorities are particularly interested in a trip to the Bahamas. Certain expenses on his campaign budget are also scrutinized.
- An attempted extortion?
From the start, the chosen one assures that he has “never paid for sex” and that all his partners were over 18 years old. Gaetz claims to be the victim of an extortion attempt and posted text messages to his father, who made his fortune in the healthcare industry by selling his business for several hundred million dollars in the early 2000s.
David McGee, a lawyer passed by the department of justice, indicates to Don Gaetz that his son is on the verge of being “indicted” but assures that he can “make his problems disappear” thanks to his contacts. The case takes on the air of a spy novel by Tom Clancy: the lawyer swears to be negotiating a ransom to free Robert Levinson, an American who has disappeared in Iran since 2007, and who is presumed dead by the American authorities. McGee cites a $ 25 million loan. Matt Gaetz claims his father contacted the FBI and even wore a microphone when he met the attorney, a point confirmed by a Florida deputy prosecutor.
- Problematic Venmo receipts
Problem for Gaetz, even if this extortion attempt was proven, it does not mean that the original investigation against him is not serious, far from it. His concerns appear to be linked to a former Florida tax official, Joel Greenberg. Indicted for “sex trafficking”, the latter will plead guilty and collaborate with the authorities. Last week, his lawyer estimated that Matt Gaetz should probably “not rest easy”.
According to a survey by Daily Beast, in May 2018, Matt Gaetz transferred $ 900 to Joel Greenberg via the Venmo payment app, telling him to “contact” a young girl. The next day, Greenberg transferred $ 300 to three young women, including the one Gaetz mentioned. Greenberg is believed to have had sex with the latter when she was 17. And if she was 18 at the time of the financial transaction, authorities are looking to determine if Matt Gaetz had sex with her before, when she was underage.
For two weeks, the revelations have been linked. According to US media, the representative and others allegedly took ecstasy. Matt Gaetz also used to show nude photos of his partners to his House colleagues. And a former local Florida politician claims that in the 2010s, Gaetz and others invented a points ranking system based on their conquests.
- Very shy support from Donald Trump
Elected to the House in November 2016 at the same time as Donald Trump to the White House, Matt Gaetz has become one of the president’s fiercest defenders along with his friend Jim Jordan. During Trump’s second trial, Gaetz, a former lawyer, had offered in a chivalrous gesture to resign in order to represent Donald Trump, regretting that he had “only one career to offer him”.
But the ex-president’s only support came in the form of a terse press release. Donald Trump assured that Matt Gaetz had “never asked for pardon”, contrary to what the New York Times, stressing that the elected official “totally denies” the accusations. According to the American media, Trump, who has himself been mired in several sex scandals, would like to do more but his advisers have begged him to keep his distance. Matt Gaetz is currently radioactive.