Rep. Matt Gaetz claims the DOJ’s investigation into whether he violated sex trafficking laws is part of ‘an organized criminal extortion’ scheme against him

Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz.
  • GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz claimed a federal probe into whether he broke sex trafficking laws is part of an "extortion" scheme against him.
  • He told Fox News' Tucker Carlson that someone first contacted his father in connection to the scheme on March 16.
  • But NYT reported that the DOJ's investigation was launched late last summer, well before Gaetz said his family was contacted as part of the alleged extortion scheme.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida claimed on Tuesday that an ongoing Justice Department investigation into whether he violated federal sex trafficking laws is part of an "organized criminal extortion" scheme against his family.

The New York Times first reported on the investigation, and Gaetz confirmed its existence to The Times and the news website Axios.

According to the reports, investigators are examining whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him, and broke sex-trafficking laws in doing so.

The Republican lawmaker said on Twitter said the investigation was based on "lies" being pushed against him by 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 tweeted. "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."

Gaetz continued: "No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets ... of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations."

Read more: Republicans are unloading on Rep. Matt Gaetz in gossipy texts and snide asides amid reports of a DOJ sex investigation: 'He's the meanest person in politics'

The Florida congressman told Fox News' Tucker Carlson later Tuesday that the person who allegedly tried to extort his family first texted his father on March 16 "demanding a meeting wherein a person demanded $25 million in exchange for making horrible sex trafficking allegations against me go away."

But Katie Benner, one of the Times reporters who broke the story about the DOJ's investigation, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that the probe began last summer and has been going on for more than six months, meaning it started well before Gaetz says his family was roped into the alleged extortion scheme.

A spokesperson for Gaetz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

At one point during his interview with Carlson, Gaetz also appeared to suggest the FBI had "threatened" a "friend" he brought with him to dinner with Carlson and his wife two years ago.

"I can say that actually, you and I went to dinner about two years ago, your wife was there and I brought a friend of mine, you'll remember her, and she was actually threatened by the FBI, told that if she wouldn't cop to the fact that somehow, I was involved in some pay-for-play scheme, that she could face trouble," Gaetz said.

He continued: "And so, I do believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to smear me. Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you're dating who are of legal age is not a crime, and I'm just troubled that the lack of any sort of legitimate investigation into me would then permute, would then convert into this extortion attempt."

Carlson replied: "I don't remember the woman you're speaking of or the context at all, honestly."

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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