Gaetz Faces House Ethics, Fed Probe 04/10 12:28
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House Ethics Committee announced an investigation
Friday into Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz as federal prosecutors probing sex
trafficking allegations against him are also scrutinizing the actions of some
of his political allies and fellow Florida Republicans as part of a broader
public corruption inquiry.
Federal agents have, in recent months, been examining Gaetz's connections to
several other influential Florida political figures.
They include Florida state senator Jason Brodeur; Halsey Beshears, the
state's former top business regulator; Chris Dorworth, a lobbyist who had
served in the state House of Representatives; and Jason Pirozzolo, a hand
surgeon and Gaetz campaign donor who served on the board of the Orlando Airport
Authority, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
Brodeur and Beshears did not respond to repeated calls seeking comment. An
attorney for Pirozzolo also did not respond to a request for comment. Dorworth
The FBI's examination of a wide range of topics involving Gaetz and his
associates exemplifies the breadth of the investigation.
Gaetz, who has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, has retained two prominent
New York attorneys while facing a Justice Department investigation into sex
trafficking allegations involving underage girls.
The scrutiny includes an examination of a trip that Gaetz and Pirozzolo took
to the Bahamas with a group of women, and federal agents are looking into
whether they were paid or received gifts to have sex with the men, the person
said. CBS News first reported details of the trip.
The FBI has also started questioning people about that trip and others that
Gaetz and his associates took with women, and agents are examining whether any
of the women were later hired into government positions as political favors,
the person said.
Investigators have been scrutinizing financial records, contact witnesses,
former staff members and others who they believe may have been aware of the
activities, according to the person.
The person could not publicly discuss details of the ongoing investigation
and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Gaetz has not been charged with a crime and has sent fundraising appeals
that portray him as a victim of a "smear campaign." During a high-profile
appearance Friday night at former President Donald Trump's Doral golf club in
Miami, he vowed, "I have not yet begun to fight."
"I'm built for the battle and I'm not going anywhere," Gaetz said. "The
smears against me range from distortions of my personal life to wild -- and I
mean wild -- conspiracy theories."
But a potentially ominous sign occurred in a Florida court Thursday when it
was revealed that a Gaetz associate, Joel Greenberg, a former county tax
collector, is working toward a plea deal. Such a move could potentially open
the door for Greenberg's cooperation against Gaetz.
Prosecutors are examining whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid underage girls or
offered them gifts in exchange for sex, according to two people familiar with
the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they could not discuss
details publicly. Greenberg entered a not guilty plea Friday through his
attorney to a variety of charges ranging from child sex trafficking to fraud. A
judge has set a May 15 deadline for Greenberg to reach a plea deal.
The House panel's bipartisan probe is one of the first official indications
Gaetz's party leaders are willing to scrutinize his actions. It also appears
sweeping in scope, reaching beyond the reports of sexual misconduct into
broader allegations of public corruption, according to the committee chairman,
Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and ranking Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of
Indiana. Unfolding alongside a federal criminal investigation, the ethics probe
ensures Gaetz will have to confront simultaneous inquiries even as he maintains
his innocence and plans to remain in Congress.
The Ethics Committee conducts its work in secret and usually issues a final
report on what it finds, often many months later. Punishment for ethics
violations is up to the House and can include censure, fines and even expulsion
Separately Friday, a spokesperson for Gaetz said attorneys Marc Mukasey and
Isabelle Kirshner will lead his legal team.
"Matt has always been a fighter. A fighter for his constituents, a fighter
for the country, and a fighter for the Constitution. He's going to fight back
against the unfounded allegations against him," the statement said, adding that
the lawyers "will take the fight to those trying to smear his name with