Politics

House Ethics Committee launches investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz

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Key Points
  • The House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz, the embattled Florida Republican who is facing a federal sex-trafficking investigation.
  • "The Committee, pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a), has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding the allegations," the panel said in a statement.
  • The Democrat-led ethics panel also said it has begun a probe into Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., citing public allegations of possible sexual misconduct by the congressman.
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House Ethics Committee opens probe of Fla. Rep. Matt Gaetz

The House Ethics Committee said Friday it launched an investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz, the embattled Florida Republican who was already facing a federal criminal sex-trafficking probe.

In a statement, the ethics committee said it is aware of public allegations that Gaetz "may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use."

The panel also noted that Gaetz is alleged to have "shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct."

Gaetz, 38, has vigorously denied wrongdoing since the Department of Justice's investigation first came to light last week. He has not been charged with a crime.

"Once again, the office will reiterate, these allegations are blatantly false and have not been validated by a single human being willing to put their name behind them," Gaetz's office told CNBC in response to the new ethics probe.

The Democrat-led ethics panel also revealed Friday that it has begun a probe into Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., citing allegations of possible sexual misconduct.

Last month, Reed apologized to a woman who accused him of rubbing her back and unhooking her bra at a Minneapolis bar in 2017. Reed said he would not seek reelection in 2022.

Reed's office did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment but said in a statement to Politico: "We have already publicly addressed this situation and consistent with that are cooperating with the House Ethics Committee to bring this matter to conclusion."

The Ethics Committee's press releases, attributed to Chairman Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and ranking member Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., both noted that an investigation "does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee."

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Rep. Matt Gaetz's trouble may be worse than originally thought

Federal investigators are looking into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travels with him, The New York Times first reported last week.

That probe reportedly grew out of an investigation into Gaetz's associate Joel Greenberg, a former county tax collector in Florida who is facing criminal charges including sex trafficking of a minor, stalking, wire fraud and identity theft.

Greenberg had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges, but his lawyer and the prosecutors in his case told a judge Thursday that Greenberg is expected to strike a plea deal.

NBC reported Wednesday that investigators are looking at whether women were paid to travel to the Bahamas with Gaetz for sex and whether Gaetz and Greenberg used the internet to look up women they could pay for sex.

"I'm sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today," Greenberg's attorney Fritz Scheller told reporters Thursday afternoon.

One Republican congressman, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, has already called on Gaetz to resign.

Gaetz declared this week he is "absolutely not resigning" from Congress. A staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, Gaetz has retained Marc Mukasey, a defense lawyer representing the Trump Organization, to represent him.

Gaetz has also hired a public relations firm, Logan Circle Group, amid the torrent of damning news coverage.