DORAL – On the same day the US House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating his conduct, US Representative Matt Gaetz addressed a conference of fierce supporters at the Trump National Doral resort, swearing that he would fight the allegations against him, which he said were part of a “deep state” smear campaign to silence him.
“The slanders against me range from distortions of my personal life to insanity – and I mean, wild – conspiracy theories, ”said the 38-year-old MP from Northwestern Florida. “I will not be intimidated by lying media and I will not be extorted by a former DOJ [Department of Justice] official and the crooks he works with. The truth will prevail. “
Gaetz’s Friday night address at the “Save America Summit,” which is part of a four-day conference with a roster of right-wing speakers discussing topics such as “electoral integrity,” was one of his first public appearances since New York Times reported a week ago that Gaetz was the subject of an FBI investigation into alleged sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old girl, in return for payment. Gaetz meddled in the federal investigation, sources told the Times, as part of an investigation into former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last year on a series of federal charges, including sex trafficking of a minor and identity theft.
Gaetz, who has not been charged with a felony, previously admitted an investigation was underway, but repeatedly denied them and claimed they were part of an extortion scheme against his family by a former official of the Ministry of Justice.
“I was made for battle, and I’m not going anywhere,” added Gaetz, who is a well-known Tory fire killer and a close ally of former President Donald Trump.
The event was hosted by Women for America First, the same group that hosted the now infamous “Save America Rally” in Washington on January 6. This gathering preceded the march. on the United States Capitol which ended in the deaths of five people, injuring many more and seeing hundreds enter the building while Congress was in session. Among the problems the group puts forward is the baseless claim that there was widespread voter fraud and other irregularities during the 2020 election that led to an elaborate “theft”.
A self-proclaimed champion of women
During a 15-minute speech, Gaetz referred to the support he received from friends, strangers and politicians. allies, including Trump and Republican officials. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan. He described himself as a champion of women, speaking at length about several women he hired who became an essential part of his time in Congress – even when others told him he was doing the wrong thing. thing.
“This is how I was brought up,” Gaetz said. “I saw the potential unlocked with so many bright and patriotic women I have been fortunate enough to work with.”
Many attendees at Friday’s event said they didn’t believe the allegations against Gaetz were true, either because they didn’t trust the stories or because they “just know” and think that they are part of a model to silence Trump allies and other conservative voices in Congress. Monika Page, a 72-year-old participant from Colorado, told the Miami Herald that the news reminded her of the sexual assault allegations that surfaced before Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
“I don’t believe what he was accused of. I think it’s just to discredit him, to try to silence him, which won’t work, ”Page said. “I am totally behind Matt, I support him.”
Meanwhile, the investigation announced by the ethics committee, which is headed by Democratic Representative Broward Ted Deutch, only has jurisdiction over sitting members of Congress, and the committee may postpone its investigation to the Department of Justice if criminal activity is suspected.
“The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Matt Gaetz has committed sexual misconduct and / or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the floor of the House, misused records state identification, converted campaign funds for personal use, and / or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or unauthorized gift, in violation of house rules, laws or regulations. ‘other standards of conduct,’ the committee wrote in a statement released Friday afternoon. “The Committee … has opened an investigation and will collect further information regarding the allegations.”
If Gaetz resigns or is removed from office, the ethics committee no longer has the capacity to investigate his conduct. The committee usually operates slowly and does not release details of an investigation until a final decision is made.
“The committee notes that the mere fact of investigating these allegations and publicly disclosing its review does not in itself indicate that there has been a violation, nor does it reflect a judgment on the part of the committee,” the committee said. of ethics in its declaration.
And for now, that’s enough for most defenders of Gaetz. But even among his staunchest supporters, a few cling to a shred of doubt, wondering fearing that there is a small part of chance the allegations will turn out to be true.
“He’s one of the # 1 speakers to denounce the Democratic Party … so it didn’t surprise me when something happened against him, but I hope that’s not true,” said Cathy Sampson, 58. who was visiting from Nevada. “It would really shock me if that turned out to be true. I would be really heartbroken.
McClatchy DC reporter Alex Daugherty contributed to this report.