GOP leader says Gaetz would lose committee seat if charges true

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyPelosi: Democrats can't allow 'indecent' Boebert comments to stand McCarthy pleads with Republicans to stop infighting: 'Congress is not junior high' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump's pre-debate COVID-19 test sparks criticism MORE (R-Calif.) said Wednesday that GOP leaders will remove Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzMcCarthy pleads with Republicans to stop infighting: 'Congress is not junior high' GOP infighting just gets uglier Vigilantes are not patriots MORE (R-Fla.) from his committee assignments if he's found to be guilty of sex trafficking, a case currently under investigation by the Justice Department.

But McCarthy suggested Gaetz would remain on those panels, which include the powerful Judiciary Committee, during the course of the DOJ's investigation.

"Those are serious implications. If it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that's the case," McCarthy told Fox News. "But right now Matt Gaetz says that it's not true and we don't have any information. So let's get all the information."

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Gaetz, one of most vocal supporters of former President TrumpDonald TrumpMedia giants side with Bannon on request to release Jan. 6 documents Cheney warns of consequences for Trump in dealings with Jan. 6 committee Jan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official MORE, is making waves in Washington this week after revelations that the Justice Department is investigating allegations that he'd engaged in a sexual relationship with an underaged girl several years ago.

The probe, which began under the Trump administration, includes an examination of allegations that Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws by traveling with the girl across state lines. The news of the investigation was broken Tuesday by The New York Times.

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Gaetz has vehemently denied the allegations, contending that he and his family are the victims of an extortion scheme, in which the alleged perpetrators had sought millions of dollars from the Gaetz family to make the charges disappear.

“I know that there was a demand for money in exchange for a commitment that he could make this investigation go away along with his co-conspirators,” Gaetz told Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonRittenhouse says he's destroying gun used in fatal Kenosha shootings NBA's Enes Kanter: Americans criticizing their country should 'keep their mouth shut' The serious and growing danger of vigilantism MORE, the conservative Fox News personality, in an interview Tuesday night.

Gaetz went on to accuse Democrats of fueling the allegations for the political purpose of silencing a prominent Trump supporter and rising star of the right.

"What I am troubled by is the real motivation for all of this,” Gaetz said. "I believe we are in an era of our politics now, Tucker, where people are smeared to try to take them out of the conversation.”

The controversy swirling around Gaetz arrives as Republicans are ramping up the pressure on Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden marks World AIDS Day with new actions to end HIV epidemic by 2030 DeFazio becomes 19th House Democrat to retire Pelosi: Democrats can't allow 'indecent' Boebert comments to stand MORE (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders to strip Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips Omar calls out Boebert over anti-Muslim remarks, denies Capitol incident took place MORE (D-Calif.) of his seat on the Intelligence Committee. Swalwell, beginning in 2012, had been targeted by a women suspected of being a Chinese spy, an incident first reported by Axios in December.

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An FBI investigation cleared Swalwell of any wrongdoing, and the California Democrat cut ties with the woman immediately after the agency briefed him and congressional leaders of both parties in 2015.

McCarthy on Wednesday said he has not been briefed by the DOJ on the Gaetz case, nor has he talked to Gaetz personally since the Times story broke.

Gaetz is no stranger to controversy. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he appeared on the House floor in a gas mask — a gesture that drew howls from Democrats who accused him of mocking the public safety protocols installed to combat the deadly pandemic.

Gaetz was also a leading proponent of the false narrative that Trump had won November's presidential election by a landslide, only to have the victory "stolen" by rampant voter fraud. He was among the majority of House Republicans that tried to overturn the election outcome by rejecting the submitted results from two states on Jan. 6, just hours after a pro-Trump mob stormed into the Capitol to disrupt the process.

No evidence of such fraud was found in any state.