- Matt Gaetz's father told Politico he is cooperating in an FBI probe of an alleged extortion scheme against the Gaetz family.
- He provided emails to Politico that appear to confirm the existence of the investigation.
- Gaetz and his father say the person who allegedly tried to extort them is David McGee, a former DOJ official.
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Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz's father, Don, told Politico on Wednesday that he's working with the FBI as it investigates an alleged scheme to extort the Gaetz family.
The younger Gaetz also shared emails with the news outlet that appeared to confirm the existence of the bureau's inquiry. The March 25 correspondence was between Don Gaetz's lawyer, Jeffrey Neiman, and David Goldberg, an assistant US attorney for the Northern District of Florida, Politico said.
"I can confirm that your client is working with my office as well as the FBI at the government's request in order to determine if a federal crime has been committed," Goldberg wrote to Neiman, according to Politico. "This has been discussed with, and approved by, the FBI as well as leadership in my office and components of main justice."
"The government thanks you for working cooperatively with the FBI," the email said.
During his interview with Politico on Wednesday, Don Gaetz appeared to back up many of the claims his son made the previous day, after The New York Times reported that the Justice Department was investigating whether Matt Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and broke federal sex trafficking laws.
The younger Gaetz wrote on Twitter that "no part of the allegations" at the heart of the DOJ's sex probe were true and that "the people pushing these lies" were engaged in an "organized criminal extortion" scheme against his family.
During a Fox News interview later that night, Gaetz told the host that the person behind the alleged scheme was David McGee, a former DOJ official who now works at the law firm Beggs & Lane. He added that he and his father were cooperating with the FBI as it investigated the matter, and that his father wore a wire as part of the inquiry.
On Wednesday, Don Gaetz also told Politico McGee was behind the scheme and that he wore a wire more than once, including earlier this month when he met with McGee. The elder Gaetz also said he was going to meet Wednesday with Stephen Alford, a Florida developer who Gaetz says was also involved in the alleged plot to extort the family.
McGee told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that Gaetz's claims were "totally false," and did not respond to Politico's request for comment.
Later Wednesday, The Washington Post shed more light on the details of the alleged extortion scheme, reporting that two men approached Don Gaetz while the DOJ's sex probe was underway and offered to help Matt Gaetz with his legal issues in exchange for a "huge sum of money."
The men told the elder Gaetz that the money would be used to help in a search for Robert Levinson, a former DEA and FBI agent who disappeared in Iran while he was on a CIA mission. In 2017, he became the longest-held American hostage in history, and his family announced in March 2020 that he had died, though the exact date of his death is unknown.
But Don Gaetz was suspicious of the overture, the Post reported, and contacted the FBI because he was worried his family was being extorted.
Matt Gaetz also claimed on Tuesday that his father got a text message on March 16 "demanding a meeting wherein a person demanded $25 million in exchange for making horrible sex trafficking allegations against me go away." He said the bureau was in possession of audio recordings that would prove his innocence and demanded that they be released.
The Florida lawmaker's revelation of an apparent FBI investigation was highly unusual given that the bureau typically keeps its inquiries under tight wraps to avoid tipping off targets.
Katie Benner, one of the Times reporters who broke the story about the DOJ's sex probe, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Tuesday that the investigation was launched late last summer - months before when Gaetz said his father was first contacted as part of the alleged extortion scheme.
The timeline doesn't necessarily mean Gaetz's claims of an extortion scheme are untrue, but it does indicate the department's probe was not launched as a result of any such scheme.
"One can be guilty of a crime and still be shaken down to, theoretically, make the investigation go away," said Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the DOJ.
Then Attorney General William Barr and senior Trump appointees at the DOJ were also aware of the Gaetz sex probe when it was launched, which would appear to contradict Gaetz's claim that he was targeted because he is an "outspoken conservative."
Gaetz's spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.