Gaetz denies allegations, claims he's victim of 'organized criminal extortion'

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzLawmakers introduce bipartisan Free Britney Act Performance or performance art? A question for voters in 2022 (and 2024) Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections MORE (R-Fla.) defended himself after news broke on Tuesday of a Department of Justice (DOJ) probe reportedly investigating whether the lawmaker had sexual relations with a teenager, claiming he was the victim of “an organized criminal extortion” involving a former DOJ official.

“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,” Gaetz said in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

“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. The planted leak to The New York Times tonight was intended to thwart that investigation,” he wrote.

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“No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation,” he continued.

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The Florida congressman also called on the DOJ to “immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations.” 

The Hill has reached out to the DOJ and Gaetz’s office for comment. 

According to The New York Times, the DOJ probe is investigating whether the Florida lawmaker had sexual relations with a teenager. The probe, which reportedly launched during the last months of the Trump administration, is also looking at whether the congressman violated federal sex trafficking laws by allegedly paying for the girl to travel with him.

The girl is reportedly 17 years old. 

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) has called for Gaetz to be suspended from the House Judiciary Committee, on which they both serve, pending the outcome of the probe.

“He should not be sitting on a Congressional Committee with oversight over the DOJ while the Department is investigating him,” Lieu tweeted on Tuesday shortly after the Times published its report.

The probe is reportedly part of a larger investigation into Joel Greenberg, a former local Florida tax collector and an ally of Gaetz who is facing charges of sex trafficking a child and payment to at least one female minor for sex. Greenberg has reportedly pleaded not guilty to the charges.