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Gaetz calls allegations against him false

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzKatie Hill says 'it would take a lot' to convince her to run again for House GOP divided over bills targeting tech giants Kinzinger: Conspiracy theory FBI planned Jan. 6 example of 'legacy of Trump and Trumpism' MORE (R-Fla.) says that the allegations of sexual misconduct against him are false.

"The allegations against me are as searing as they are false," Gaetz told Axios in a phone interview. "I believe that there are people at the Department of Justice [DOJ] who are trying to criminalize my sexual conduct, you know when I was a single guy."

The statement comes after The New York Times reported that the DOJ is investigating whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him. 

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The newspaper noted that the investigation was opened during former President TrumpDonald TrumpMaria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back Republicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat MORE’s administration. Given Gaetz's profile as a staunch Trump ally, senior officials within the Justice Department were notified of the investigation.

Gaetz told Axios that he and his father had been working with the FBI for weeks on the case and that the DOJ told his lawyers that "I was not a target but a subject of an investigation regarding sexual conduct with women." 

When asked what he thought the allegations were about, Gaetz told Axios about being "generous" as a partner when he was single. 

"I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I've dated. You know, I've paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not," he said.

 

Gaetz later issued a statement claiming that he was the victim of a $25 million criminal extortion.

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"Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name. We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals," he said.

"The planted leak to the New York Times tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations," he said. 

News of the investigation comes after Axios reported earlier on Tuesday that Gaetz was considering retiring from Congress to become a contributor for Newsmax.

Updated: 9:50 p.m.