GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz and Tom Reed face House Ethics Committee investigations
WASHINGTON – The House Ethics Committee is investigating Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Tom Reed of New York.
Reed is accused of inappropriately touching a woman at a bar four years ago, and Gaetz faces a laundry list of allegations in connection with a Justice Department investigation.
Gaetz has continued to deny wrongdoing after the New York Times reported he was the subject of a federal investigation. That investigation centers around whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to the Times, which also reported investigators are looking into whether Gaetz violated sex trafficking laws. Gaetz has not been charged with a crime.
The Florida congressman also has been accused of showing pictures and videos of nude women he had relations with to other lawmakers while on the House floor.
Reed originally denied wrongdoing but later apologized to former lobbyist Nicolette Davis. In March, the Washington Post reported that while intoxicated, Reed rubbed Davis’ back, moved his hand outside her shirt, unfastened her bra and continued to grope her in a bar in Minneapolis.
Ethics Committee Chairman Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Ranking Member Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., released on Friday afternoon similar, individual statements about the separate investigations.
“The Committee is aware of public allegations” against both congressmen, the two statements say. “The Committee, pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a), has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding the allegations.”
“The Committee notes that the mere fact that it is investigating these allegations, and publicly disclosing its review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee. No other public comment will be made on this matter except in accordance with Committee rules,” both statements conclude.
The committee said it is additionally looking into allegations against Gaetz about illicit drug use, bribery, use of campaign funds for personal expenses and sharing “inappropriate videos on the House floor.”
Reed recently announced he would not run for reelection or for New York governor in 2022 and “therefore will be retiring from public service on January 2nd, 2023.”
“In reflection, my personal depiction of this event is irrelevant,” he said in a statement about the allegations against him. “Simply put, my behavior caused her pain, showed her disrespect and was unprofessional. I was wrong, I am sorry, and I take full responsibility.”
Gaetz, who gained national attention as one of former President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters in Congress, has painted the allegations against him as part of a political attack and, when the news first broke, as part of an extortion scheme. He has said he is “absolutely not resigning.”
In a statement Friday, his office said the allegations “are blatantly false and have not been validated by a single human being willing to put their name behind them.”
Gaetz did not discuss the specifics of the investigation in a speech Friday to a conservative group, but told supporters that political enemies are lying about him because he is a threat to their power.
“They aren’t really coming for me – they’re coming for you,” Gaetz told attendees at a “Save America Summit” held at Donald Trump’s Doral golf club in Miami. “I’m just in the way.”
Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector who is indicted on more than 30 federal charges, is negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors. Among other crimes, Greenberg is charged with child sex trafficking. According to the Times, Greenberg is accused of trafficking the teen whose relationship with Gaetz is under investigation, and Greenberg and Gaetz allegedly made payments to several of the same women for sex.
The Times and Fox News both reported Gaetz had sought blanket preemptive pardons for himself and others in Congress during the final days of Trump’s presidency.
Contributing: Joseph Spector, New York State Team; Sarah Elbeshbishi and David Jackson, USA TODAY; Jim Little, Pensacola News Journal