A new report from CBS revealed this week that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) had drawn scrutiny from federal investigators for a trip that he took to the Bahamas with a Florida marijuana entrepreneur and hand surgeon named Jason Pirozzolo, and it turns out that none other than former President Donald Trump was caught on camera with Pirozzolo when arriving in Florida ahead of his formal 2020 campaign kickoff rally in 2019. In the description of CBS, Pirozzolo “allegedly paid for the travel expenses, accommodations, and female escorts” associated with that late 2018/ early 2019 Bahamas trip that he took with Gaetz, meaning that Gaetz and Pirozzolo could have been involved in international human trafficking.
Check out footage of Trump and Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis together with Pirozzolo back in 2019 below:
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greeted by Gov. Ron DeSantis, his wife Casey and Jason Pirozzolo, an Orlando hand surgeon and GOAA board member. pic.twitter.com/5b9QbYifYb
— Ryan Gillespie (@byRyanGillespie) June 18, 2019
Through a spokesperson, Gaetz responded to the report that he may have been involved in international sex trafficking with a suspiciously worded statement. The statement read, in part, as follows:
‘Rep. Gaetz has never paid for sex, nor has he had sex with an underage girl. What began with blaring headlines about ‘sex trafficking’ has now turned into a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults. Yesterday, we even learned of some nonsense ‘pardon’ story that turned out to be false, and today it’s just more euphemism.’
In other words, Gaetz does not appear to deny that he took a trip to the Bahamas with Pirozzolo, and he didn’t even explicitly deny that escorts were present on the trip! Instead, his spokesperson claimed that media reports are relying on “euphemism,” meaning Gaetz apparently doesn’t deny some of the actual actions. Instead, his issue is seemingly with the way that some of the alleged actions have been described.
Gaetz has insisted that he didn’t pay for sex, but former prosecutor Arlo Devlin-Brown noted to CBS that Gaetz didn’t have to personally pay any escorts to end up with criminal liability over human trafficking. If Gaetz was aware of the alleged payment arrangement while participating in Pirozzolo’s trip, then he could be culpable.
As Devlin-Brown explained it:
‘Traveling across state lines is what creates a federal hook for a prosecution. It doesn’t matter that [Gaetz] personally paid them as long as he knows someone is doing that.’
Gaetz has been under federal investigation for, besides these issues, potential child sex trafficking. Specifically, he has been suspected of potentially paying for a 17-year-old to travel with him under the pretenses of sexual interactions. Gaetz has suggested that he is facing these allegations as part of some kind of political pushback, but the Justice Department investigation began when the Trump administration was still in power and Trump appointee Bill Barr led the Justice Department.