Former Air Force officer denies Gaetz extortion claims

A former Air Force intelligence officer denied accusations from Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzPress: Inmates have taken over the asylum Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - CDC equates Delta to chickenpox in contagiousness MORE (R-Fla.) that he had attempted to extort Gaetz's father.

During an appearance on CNN’s “Prime Time,” former Air Force intelligence officer Bob Kent said Gaetz was "trying to direct attention from himself" in light of a probe that surfaced from the Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging that the Florida congressman engaged in sex trafficking and cash payments to women. 

Following news of the probe, Gaetz claimed that the allegations were false and that they were part of an "organized criminal extortion."  

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Gaetz's father, Don Gaetz, appeared to back his son's claims, telling Politico in an interview that he had been working with the FBI on several occasions as part of an investigation. 

The Washington Post reported last week that two men had approached Don Gaetz claiming that if the elder Gaetz donated money to help find Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who was kidnapped in Iran, it would help his son's "situation."

The Washington Examiner later released messages purportedly between Don Gaetz and Kent, in which Kent states that he could make the Florida representative's "future legal and political problems go away."

Kent acknowledged that he had sent the text, but denied that his communication with Don Gaetz was part of an extortion scheme. Instead, he told CNN he implied that funding a rescue attempt for Levinson would reflect well on the congressman in the midst of legal turmoil.

"There were no threats," Kent told host Chris CuomoChris CuomoMeghan McCain: CNN's Cuomo ignoring brother's scandal 'the worst kind of nepotism' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - What happens to Cuomo now? Harassment report shows CNN's Cuomo played ongoing role in advising brother following allegations MORE. "There were no demands."

"When I left, the last thing I told Don Gaetz was that you'll never hear from me again. I'm not a threat to you or your son. I won't talk to the press. I'm not going to say a bad word about him," he said.

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Kent claimed to have no knowledge of the situation regarding Gaetz and the DOJ, only having heard "rumors about his activities." 

He alleged that his meeting with Gaetz's father was an earnest attempt to raise funding to look for Levinson. Kent added that he had spoken with the FBI regarding his meeting with Don Gaetz.

"If Mr. Gaetz really believed [the extortion claims], he could've kept this quiet and gone to the FBI. Instead, he exposed the Levinson family to additional grief and he's capitalizing off that and trying to direct attention from himself," Kent said. "Robert Levinson is a constituent of Matt Gaetz and — the congressman just made the Levinson situation worse."