Ex-President Donald Trump has — after days on end of silence about scandals surrounding the Congressman — released a public statement in defense of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a committed ally of the former president who is currently under federal investigation over issues including potential child sex trafficking. The spark for Trump’s statement was an allegation that Gaetz had sought a preemptive pardon from the White House towards the conclusion of Trump’s time in office, although it’s unclear what Gaetz knew of the trafficking investigation at the time. Trump claims that he never spoke directly with the Congressman about a potential pardon.
Trump’s remarks about Gaetz were brief. He commented as follows:
‘Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon. It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.’
— Emily Brooks (@emilyelarsen) April 7, 2021
Gaetz does not appear to have actually been alleged to have directly asked Trump for a pardon, so the ex-president appears to be responding to an allegation that wasn’t made, which he used as a pretense for his denial. According to The New York Times, Gaetz “privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed,” and from there, “[aides] told Mr. Trump of the request,” the publication adds.
Before leaving office, Trump was reported to have been exploring issuing preemptive pardons for his three oldest adult children, including Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, and he also reportedly considered a preemptive presidential pardon for longtime ally Rudy Giuliani, but none of these pardons ever materialized. Trump was also reported to have contemplated issuing a preemptive pardon for himself, which also never emerged. Trump did, however, issue a slew of pardons for political allies before leaving office. Beneficiaries included longtime ally Roger Stone, ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort, former adviser Michael Flynn, and others.
Whether Gaetz will be charged with a crime as part of the ongoing Justice Department investigation is not immediately clear, but the investigation into the Congressman reportedly began in connection to a case against his associate Joel Greenberg, an ex-county official in Central Florida who is in jail awaiting trial on charges including child sex trafficking. Gaetz is also under investigation for possibly paying women for sex in violation of federal anti-prostitution provisions. Meanwhile, Trump is facing his own criminal exposure via ongoing investigations from District Attorneys in Georgia and New York.