Matt Gaetz reported to have sought a ‘blanket’ pardon from Donald Trump
Rep. Matt Gaetz allegedly sought a “blanket” presidential pardon from Donald Trump in the closing weeks of his administration — a request which was ultimately not fulfilled, according to news reports.
The request for a blanket preemptive pardon for the Florida Republican and unidentified congressional allies, first reported on Tuesday night by The New York Times, came as the Justice Department was opening an investigation into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel across state lines.
It’s the latest development in a scandal that has embroiled the third-term lawmaker after The Times first reported on the investigation last week.
Gaetz, a conservative firebrand, has been a vocal defender of the former president. However, the 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 Times reported, citing anonymous sources who were briefed on the discussions.
It’s unclear whether Gaetz or the White House was aware of the Justice Department inquiry when he made the pardon request, The Times said. Although Trump was informed about the request, it was also unclear whether Gaetz had spoken directly with him about the matter.
However, a week ago, the congressman had denied that he had sought a pardon from Trump when asked about the possibility by POLITICO. Reached by phone on Tuesday night, Gaetz stood by that statement but said he had not read the Times article.
“The recent false allegations against me are not something I’ve ever discussed with Trump, pardons or otherwise,” he previously told POLITICO.
Gaetz said that he and other lawmakers had met with Trump to discuss a broader pardon strategy after the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, an exchange in which he advised the former president to pardon himself, his family, administration officials and others who supported Trump’s election claims from a charge of insurrection.
Trump was later impeached by the House on a charge of inciting an insurrection, but acquitted in the Senate. 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.
Former President Trump on Wednesday denied that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) directly asked him for a blanket pardon, and appeared to defend the congressman amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon," Trump said in a statement. "It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Gaetz asked White House officials for blanket preemptive pardons for himself and other congressional allies of Trump. The Times noted that it was not clear whether Gaetz directly addressed the matter with Trump, though aides were said to have relayed the request.
Gaetz — one of the former president's most vocal allies in Congress — is reportedly the subject of a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into an alleged inappropriate relationship with a minor and a possible violation of sex trafficking laws.
Gaetz has vehemently denied he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, stating during an interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson that he is being accused of having a relationship with a teenager that “does not exist."
The New York Times, which first reported the DOJ investigation, subsequently reported accusations that Gaetz and a former Florida county tax collector, Joel Greenberg, paid multiple women who were recruited for sex online.
The allegations have prompted calls for Gaetz to resign, though Republicans have remained largely silent on the matter. Trump is the highest profile figure to offer some cover for Gaetz.
Prior to news of the investigation, the Florida lawmaker was said to be contemplating retiring from Congress for a media job.
In a text exchange with The Hill last week, the Florida Republican said rumors he plans to resign from his office are "false" and it is "very safe" to say he doesn't have any intention to do so.
Gaetz has appeared regularly on cable television to praise Trump, and he was among the most prominent conservative voices pushing back on each of Trump's impeachments.
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