According to (CNN) – Rep. Matt Gaetz denied Tuesday that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl after The New York Times reported that, according to sources, the Justice Department was investigating a possible sexual relationship with the young woman. and if he paid for her to travel with him.
The Florida Republican said in a statement to CNN that “no part of the allegations against me is true” and that the allegations were prompted by individuals who are the target of an “ongoing extortion investigation.”
“Over the past few weeks, my family and I have been the victims of organized criminal extortion involving a former Justice Department official seeking $ 25 million while threatening to smear my name. We have been cooperating with federal authorities on this matter and my father has even been using a wire at the direction of the FBI to catch these criminals, ”Gaetz said.
“The leak made to The New York Times tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. None of the allegations against me are true, and the people promoting these lies are the targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand that the Justice Department immediately release the recordings, made under his direction, implicating his former colleague in crimes against me based on false accusations, “Gaetz added.
In an interview on Fox News, Gaetz strongly denied the allegations and accused a former Justice Department prosecutor of attempting to extort money from him and his family for the allegations. The congressman named the former prosecutor. CNN does not name the attorney, but has reached out to them for a response to Matt Gaetz’s claims.
«The person does not exist. I have not had a relationship with a 17 year old girl. That is totally untrue. The accusation is, as I read in The New York Times, I have traveled with a 17-year-old in some relationship. That is false and the recordings will confirm it as false, ”he said.
The Justice Department declined to comment. In a statement to CNN, the FBI in Jacksonville said: “The FBI refuses to confirm or deny the existence or status of an investigation. We refer it to the Department of Justice for further comment on this report. ”
The statement came after The New York Times reported that three people briefed on the matter said the US Justice Department investigation is part of a larger investigation.
Federal authorities are investigating Matt Gaetz as part of a larger investigation into trafficking allegations against another Florida politician, a person briefed on the matter told CNN.
That politician is Joel Greenberg, a former central Florida county official who was arrested last year on charges including sex trafficking of a minor. Greenberg has pleaded not guilty and has a trial scheduled.
The person said the Gaetz investigation was opened in the last months of the Trump-era Justice Department and is a consequence of the Greenberg investigation. Public integrity prosecutors in Washington and Tampa are overseeing the Gaetz investigation, the person added.
People who spoke to The New York Times said that as part of this larger investigation, investigators are looking at whether Gaetz, a high-profile ally of former President Donald Trump, violated federal sex trafficking laws, something that could have serious repercussions. legal. No charges have been brought against Gaetz, The New York Times reported.
Two of the people told the newspaper that the encounters investigators are looking at allegedly took place two years ago. The investigation had been opened by former Attorney General William Barr in the final months of the Trump administration, the people told The New York Times.
Matt Gaetz told the newspaper in an interview that his attorneys had been in contact with the Justice Department.
“I just know that he has to do with women,” Gaetz told The New York Times. “I suspect that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to my ex-girlfriends as something more inappropriate.”
Elected in 2016, Gaetz rose to national prominence in recent years as one of Trump’s most vocal advocates.