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McCarthy claims Gaetz ousted him as speaker when he refused to ‘do something illegal’ to stop ethics probe

McCarthy claims Gaetz ousted him as speaker when he refused to ‘do something illegal’ to stop ethics probe

Kevin McCarthy has claimed that Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz ousted him as speaker because he refused to “do something illegal” to stop an ethics probe into the congressman.

The former California Republican congressman and House speaker appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, pointing to the motion to vacate filed against his successor, Speaker Mike Johnson, by Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene after Mr Johnson made a deal with Democrats to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year until 30 September.

Mr McCarthy was ousted after just nine months as speaker in October after Mr Gatez filed a motion to vacate after Mr McCarthy also compromised with Democrats on government funding.

“The one advice I would give to the conference and to the speaker is do not be fearful of a motion to vacate,” he said on CBS. “I do not think they could do it again. That was surely based on Matt Gaetz trying to stop an ethics complaint.

“It was purely Matt coming to me trying ... [to get] me to do something illegal to stop the Ethics Committee from moving forward in an investigation that was started long before I became speaker,” Mr McCarthy said.

Speaking to NBC News, South Carolina Republican Representative Ralph Norman said he saw but didn’t hear a conversation between Mr Gaetz and Mr McCarthy on the floor of the House which he noted was out of the ordinary as “they weren’t friendly”.

Mr Norman said he later asked Mr Gaetz about the conversation and that the Floridian had said that Mr McCarthy had asked him “‘Do you want this to go away?’ or something like that”.

He added that Mr Gaetz didn’t consider any alleged offer in the interaction and that Mr McCarthy didn’t get the opportunity to ask for anything in return.

“I don’t think it even got that far,” Mr Norman told NBC. “The only thing Matt said was, ‘Kevin said, ‘Do you need the ethics violation to go away?’”

“And I think Matt ... said, ‘No you’re the reason it’s there’,” he added.

Mr Gaetz’s office confirmed Mr Norman’s version of what happened to NBC, but Mr McCarthy told the network the story was “bull****”.

Noting that the conversation took place in May, Mr McCarthy said, “What he’s referring to [is] on the floor, I’m talking to Gaetz, but then Gaetz brings up ethics to me”.

“Apparently he got a letter from Ethics asking for documents ... I told him, ‘I don’t know anything about this.’ I told him, ‘You gotta talk to [Ethics Committee Chair Michael] Guest’,” Mr McCarthy told NBC News.

The ethics panel opened an investigation into Mr Gaetz in 2021 regarding allegations of sexual misconduct. The Justice Department was also looking into allegations against Mr Gaetz. The ethics panel probe was paused during the DoJ investigation.

Mr McCarthy told NBC he thinks the ethics panel probe was opened during the speakership of Democrat Nancy Pelosi, adding that he was unaware when it was reopened during his time as speaker.

He said he didn’t know the probe had been reopened until he had a conversation with another member about the investigation last year.

Mr Gaetz wasn’t charged by the DoJ and he has rejected all allegations of wrongdoing.

When reached for comment by The Independent, a spokesperson for Mr Gaetz referred to two tweets, in which the congressman said: “Kevin McCarthy is a liar. That’s why he isn’t Speaker. Kevin McCarthy is a quitter. That’s why he isn’t a congressman.”

“If Kevin stops lying about me, I’ll stop telling the truth about him,” he added.

Mr Gaetz was recently served with a subpoena to take part in a deposition in a civil lawsuit connected to allegations that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl, ABC News reported earlier this month.

The subpoena is part of a lawsuit brought by a friend of the Florida Republican representative, targeting the young woman and others.

The subpoena was issued by lawyers representing the young woman who is now in her 20s. The allegations were at the centre of the investigation by the Department of Justice lasting years into the claims that Mr Gaetz had sex with her when she was a minor, according to ABC.

Mr Gaetz’s deposition has been scheduled for 5 April. It’s part of a larger defamation and racketeering lawsuit brought by Chris Dorworth, a friend of Mr Gaetz and a former Florida House member and lobbyist, against the woman and others.

An attorney for the woman, John Clune, told ABC he was able to “confirm that Matt Gaetz has been served for his deposition”.

During the deposition, Mr Gaetz may be asked while under oath about the alleged sexual activity.

A spokesman for Mr Gaetz told The Independent earlier this month: “Congressman Gaetz received a witness subpoena in an ongoing lawsuit between outside parties. He is not being sued, and he is neither a plaintiff nor a defendant in this matter.”