The House Ethics Committee investigating Rep. Matt Gaetz has reached out to the woman whom the congressman allegedly had sexual relations with when she was a 17-year-old minor, according to a source familiar with the committee’s work.
The outreach, which has not previously been reported, is a sign that the GOP-led committee’s investigation into the Florida Republican has recently expanded to include questioning around allegations of sex crimes.
Sources said the committee also has reached out to the Justice Department requesting materials from its investigation into Gaetz, which included allegations of lobbying violations, sex-trafficking and possible obstruction of justice. The federal probe, which also included allegations he had sex with a minor, concluded in 2023 with no charges brought against the congressman.
Gaetz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, including ever having sex with a minor or paying for sex.
“Those allegations were not true, have never been true, and the people who spread those lies have been exposed, indicted, and imprisoned,” Gaetz said in response to CNN Wednesday.
The Ethics Committee’s outreach to the young woman and the Justice Department comes amid a new flurry of activity in the probe, including outreach to multiple other witnesses and starting to conduct witness interviews. The increased activity under Republican leadership is notable given the committee probe was started by House Democrats in 2021.
Gaetz, who led the charge to oust former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, has privately blamed McCarthy for the committee restarting its probe under the California Republican’s watch.
But McCarthy has repeatedly denounced those accusations and has said Gaetz worked to oust the former speaker because of the ethics probe.
“I don’t believe them to be conservatives,” McCarthy said in November, referring to the eight Republicans who voted to oust him. “It’s driven by Gaetz, and it was all based upon an ethics complaint that happened in the last Congress. He would throw his country away to try to protect himself for what would come out as the truth.”
The Ethics Committee and Department of Justice declined to comment.
The Justice Department does not have to comply with a voluntary request from the House Ethics Committee, said Norman Eisen, who served as counsel to House Democrats in former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment.
“If a request seems merited, as part of the usual accommodation process between the legislative and executive branches, DOJ will sometimes provide some information,” Eisen said, “but they tend to be withholding of sensitive investigative materials.”
Even when the House issues a subpoena, the Justice Department typically holds back much of their internal investigative materials, Eisen said. “They will sometimes provide a specific piece of evidence when the House shows a strong need and is not otherwise able to obtain it,” he added.
In late 2020, under Trump-appointed Attorney General Bill Barr, the Justice Department opened an investigation into allegations Gaetz may have had sexual contact with a minor. The probe expanded over the years before the Justice Department officially decided last year not to charge the congressman.
As part of the sprawling investigation, Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector and close confidant of Gaetz, pleaded guilty in 2021 to six federal charges, including soliciting and paying the minor in the Gaetz allegation for sex.
The Ethics Committee, controlled at the time by Democrats, originally opened its Gaetz investigation in 2021, publicly announcing that it was examining a range of allegations including that Gaetz violated sex trafficking laws, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, used illicit drugs, converted campaign funds to personal use and accepted a bribe, among other claims.
The committee deferred its investigation at the request of the Justice Department, which was simultaneously probing the allegations, but resumed its work in after the DOJ concluded its investigation without bringing charges.
A source familiar with the House panel’s work previously told CNN that the Justice Department’s decision not to bring charges against Gaetz does not impact what the committee will and won’t investigate. The committee plans to examine the same allegations they were looking into when they opened the investigation in 2021, the source told CNN.
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