The New York Times published a bombshell report this week claiming that embattled U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) had asked former President Donald Trump for a preemptive pardon. In a terse response, however, Trump hit back by denying he received any such request.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” the 45th president declared, according to PJ Media. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”
Gaetz, a conservative firebrand and fierce Trump defender, is under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct including a relationship with a 17-year-old female.
The federal probe into claims of sex trafficking began during the Trump administration but only recently became public knowledge. The Times followed up its initial reporting on the issue with an article on Tuesday citing claims that the White House dismissed his plea for pardons for him and unnamed allies on Capitol Hill.
Among the important caveats included in that report were that it was unclear if Gaetz knew about the probe at the time or if he spoke to Trump directly.
For his part, the lawmaker has denied all allegations of wrongdoing, claiming that his family had been targeted in an extortion scheme. Subsequent details appear to lend some credence to his assertion. A text message he provided to the Washington Examiner appears to reveal one alleged member of the plot telling Gaetz’s father that he could make the congressman’s “problems go away.”
Of course, Gaetz did make a public call for widespread pardons in the final weeks of the Trump administration, arguing in November that “liberal bloodlust” would result in campaigns against Trump’s closes allies.
“President Trump should pardon Michael Flynn,” Gaetz said at the time. “He should pardon the Thanksgiving turkey. He should pardon everyone from himself to his administration officials to Joe Exotic if he has to.”
“False and increasingly bizarre”
In light of the latest reports, however, both Gaetz and Trump are denying that the two ever engaged in a private conversation about a pardon.
“Entry-level political operatives have conflated a pardon call from Representative Gaetz — where he called for President Trump to pardon ‘everyone from himself, to his administration, to Joe Exotic — with these false and increasingly bizarre, partisan allegations against him,” a Gaetz spokesperson said, according to the New York Post.
In response to calls for him to step down from Congress, Gaetz wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Examiner that he is “absolutely not resigning,” insisting that he was being smeared because of his political positions.
“First, I have never, ever paid for sex,” he declared. “And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old.”