Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a close ally of ex-President Donald Trump, is under federal investigation over potential child sex trafficking, and he claimed during a recent appearance on Fox News that “people” — meaning, presumably, members of the public — could look at his travel records and see verification that one of the central allegations in question is false. At issue, in part, is a possibility that Gaetz paid for a 17-year-old to travel with him under the pretenses of sexual interactions, which would constitute child sex trafficking. The Washington Post has concluded that Gaetz’s claim that publicly available records would exonerate him is false.
‘Gaetz says the records would clear his name. But when we asked to see them, neither he nor his staff acknowledged our questions. That’s very fishy. Here’s the bottom line: House members’ personal travel and expenses are not subject to disclosure, so there would be no public records to check regarding Gaetz’s private life.’
Personal records would reveal more details about the circumstances in question — but these records aren’t public. Members of the public simply don’t have access to records that chart all of the travels of a member of Congress like Gaetz. Disclosures that Gaetz did file and that the Post was able to review include reports to the House Ethics Committee and Federal Election Commission, but these filings — unlike Gaetz suggested — don’t even ask for the names and information for all individuals who accompanied members of Congress on a particular trip.
As the Post explains, Gaetz “did not disclose any travel payments or reimbursements” on financial disclosure forms filed with the House Ethics Committee for 2017 through 2019, and his campaign spending reports that went to the Federal Election Commission include details like airfare costs for the fourth quarter of 2019 — but the identities of who else might have been on these trips are not included in these materials.
The Post said that they “repeatedly asked Gaetz’s chief of staff Jillian Lane Wyant and his spokesman Luke Ball to show us the travel records supposedly debunking the allegations and received no response.” Similarly, Gaetz did not reply to a direct text message from the Post asking the same question. The publication notes that they “searched through all the available records and found nothing to support Gaetz’s claim,” leading the Post to conclude that “Gaetz is putting up a smokescreen, falsely reassuring viewers with nonexistent evidence,” as they put it.
Gaetz has claimed in response to the revelation of the sex trafficking investigation that the allegations are part of an extortion attempt targeting his family, but there is no documented connection between the individuals allegedly involved in this claimed extortion attempt and the authorities handling the investigation. Gaetz has said that the extortion attempt got going last month — but according to reports, the investigation itself got going longer ago, when Donald Trump was still president and Bill Barr was still U.S. Attorney General.