The FBI inquiry into whether Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old has expanded overnight to include allegations that Gaetz paid for sex with multiple women online. The New York Times reports that Gaetz and another man have been accused of using the website Seeking Arrangements—known for attracting sugar babies and sugar daddies—to meet the women.
From the New York Times:
Investigators believe Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people [close to the investigation] said.
One of the women who had sex with both men also agreed to have sex with an unidentified associate of theirs in Florida Republican politics, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. Mr. Greenberg had initially contacted her online and introduced her to Mr. Gaetz, the person said.
Mr. Gaetz denied ever paying a woman for sex.
This is a new, splashy fixture of the original investigation that has already made Gaetz the center of well-deserved mockery. For a politician from the party of so-called family values—and, more recently, conspiracy theories about sex trafficking rings instrumented by the liberal elite—to be embroiled in an alleged “sex scandal” is a special kind of schadenfreude, and Gaetz certainly deserves it.
Gaetz’s office offered the following statement to the Times: “Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex. Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life.”
The question is: Who were those past relationships with?
If the allegation that Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a minor pans out, he will be on the hook for trafficking: providing anyone under 18 with anything of value in exchange for sex—be it meals, hotel stays, booze, or even cigarettes—is a violation of federal child sex trafficking laws and has a mandatory 10-year minimum prison sentence.
Gaetz has insisted that this is all part of an elaborate extortion scheme concocted by a former prosecutor at the Department of Justice. But the creep factor just keeps growing: On Thursday, CNN reported that Gaetz allegedly showed lawmakers nude photos of women he claimed to have sex with on the House floor. Sources told CNN that these photos were shared as if they were a “point of pride.”
Again, aside from the privacy breach, this poses on whoever was featured in these photos, the arrogance of committing these transgressions without fear of consequence is astounding. There’s some precedence for that.
In 2017, the Miami Herald reported that a group of young Florida lawmakers created a game by which to score their hookups and rank female legislatures and lobbyists. On Friday, ABC News reported that Gaetz was part of this group.
[The game] granted “points” for various targets such as interns, staffers or other female colleagues in the state House. One of the targets of the scoring system was a group the lawmakers had heard were “virgins,” according to a source.
One source said Gaetz was often spotted trying to pick up young women at 101 Restaurant, a once-popular watering hole in Tallahassee for some lawmakers and students from nearby Florida State University.
The Spur Posse energy of it all reeks.
Gaetz is just one of a slew of high-profile Trump loyalists who have been accused of sexual misconduct or abuse: former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski allegedly slapped a woman’s bottom at a holiday party; Trump White House aide Rob Porter resigned after two of his former wives accused him of physical abuse; White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was charged in a domestic violence case back in the ‘90s; the wife of former Trump senior advisor Brad Parscale told police that he physically abused her; and then, of course, there’s Trump himself, with a laundry list of sexual assault and harassment allegations against him.
And now, Gaetz is accused of having a sexual relationship with a minor and being a sex pest on the job.
On Friday afternoon, Gaetz’s spokesman and longtime aide, Luke Ball, resigned. If Gaetz’s confidants are getting the fuck out of dodge, there’s no telling what chaos the coming days will bring.