U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has found himself mired in scandal this week amid allegations of engaging in a sexual relationship with a minor — potentially involving the violation of sex trafficking laws.
Though he has fervently denied the accusations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and others in her party are already discussing his possible removal from committee assignments, if not Congress altogether, as The Hill notes.
“I’m rarely surprised”
Media reports earlier this week appeared to indicate that Gaetz was the subject of a federal investigation connected to an alleged prior relationship with a 17-year-old girl and suspicion of related criminal violations in traveling with her across state lines.
For his part, the Florida Republican claims the ordeal stems from an elaborate scheme to extort his family to the tune of $25 million.
The controversy was the first topic raised by reporters during a virtual news conference with Pelosi this week. Though she expressed surprise over the nature of the allegations, the Democratic leader responded directly to a question regarding whether she believes Gaetz should resign, or at least face removal from the House Judiciary Committee.
“Well, we have so much going on in our country that hopefully, we will get back to, but in terms of that, and I think it’s an important issue, the integrity of the Congress, not to minimize that,” she said, according to a transcript. “It just surprised me that that was the first question, and I’m rarely surprised.”
Pelosi went on to insist that if “these allegations are true, of course, being removed from the Judiciary Committee is the least that could be done,” but she advised that, at this point, “this would be a matter for the Ethics Committee.”
“Let’s get all the information”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) faced similar questions during a Fox News Channel appearance on Wednesday.
He offered a similar reaction, albeit more reticent to discuss potential punishments. “Those are serious implications,” he said, according to the New York Daily News. “If it turns out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that was the case. But, right now, as Matt Gaetz has said, that is not true and we don’t have any information. So, let’s get all the information.”
The GOP leader noted that he had not yet discussed the matter with Gaetz but intended to do so later in the day.
As ABC News explained, the Justice Department probe is focused on allegations that the congressman, along with a friend who was indicted last year on sex trafficking charges, provided cash or other items of value to women he met online in exchange for sex.
According to ABC, Gaetz’s office issued a clear denial in the form of a statement this week, insisting: “Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex. Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life.”