GOP leader says Gaetz would lose committee seat if charges true
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Wednesday that GOP leaders will remove Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) from his committee assignments if he's found to be guilty of sex trafficking, a case currently under investigation by the Justice Department. But McCarthy suggested Gaetz would remain on those panels, which include the powerful Judiciary Committee, during the course of the DOJ's investigation.
"Those are serious implications. If it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that's the case," McCarthy told Fox News. "But right now Matt Gaetz says that it's not true and we don't have any information. So let's get all the information."
Gaetz, one of most vocal supporters of former President Trump, is making waves in Washington this week after revelations that the Justice Department is investigating allegations that he'd engaged in a sexual relationship with an underaged girl several years ago.
The probe, which began under the Trump administration, includes an examination of allegations that Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws by traveling with the girl across state lines. The news of the investigation was broken Tuesday by The New York Times.
Gaetz has vehemently denied the allegations, contending that he and his family are the victims of an extortion scheme, in which the alleged perpetrators had sought millions of dollars from the Gaetz family to make the charges disappear.
“I know that there was a demand for money in exchange for a commitment that he could make this investigation go away along with his co-conspirators,” Gaetz told Tucker Carlson, the conservative Fox News personality, in an interview Tuesday night.
Gaetz went on to accuse Democrats of fueling the allegations for the political purpose of silencing a prominent Trump supporter and rising star of the right.
"What I am troubled by is the real motivation for all of this,” Gaetz said. "I believe we are in an era of our politics now, Tucker, where people are smeared to try to take them out of the conversation.”
The controversy swirling around Gaetz arrives as Republicans are ramping up the pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders to strip Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) of his seat on the Intelligence Committee. Swalwell, beginning in 2012, had been targeted by a women suspected of being a Chinese spy, an incident first reported by Axios in December.
An FBI investigation cleared Swalwell of any wrongdoing, and the California Democrat cut ties with the woman immediately after the agency briefed him and congressional leaders of both parties in 2015.
McCarthy on Wednesday said he has not been briefed by the DOJ on the Gaetz case, nor has he talked to Gaetz personally since the Times story broke.
Gaetz is no stranger to controversy. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he appeared on the House floor in a gas mask — a gesture that drew howls from Democrats who accused him of mocking the public safety protocols installed to combat the deadly pandemic.
Gaetz was also a leading proponent of the false narrative that Trump had won November's presidential election by a landslide, only to have the victory "stolen" by rampant voter fraud.
He was among the majority of House Republicans that tried to overturn the election outcome by rejecting the submitted results from two states on Jan. 6, just hours after a pro-Trump mob stormed into the Capitol to disrupt the process.
No evidence of such fraud was found in any state.
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