Matt Gaetz: Women detail drug use, sex and payments after late nights with Gaetz and others

Congressman Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Speaks at a

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Party people, sometimes dressed in formal wear at a political event they had just left, mixed and shared drugs like cocaine and ecstasy. Some have had sex.

Gaetz, the brash Republican, enjoyed discussing politics, one of the women said. He behaved like a “fraternal type of party animal,” she said, sometimes taking pills she believed to be recreational drugs.

Details of the parties, which were not previously reported, were described to CNN by two women who have attended several of them in recent years. The two spoke on condition of anonymity.

Federal investigators are examining whether Gaetz had a relationship with a woman who began at age 17, according to people familiar with the investigation. Investigators also continued witness claims and other evidence that Gaetz used cash and drugs in his dealings with the young women.

After certain holidays, money changed hands. According to receipts reviewed by CNN, Gaetz and his partner Joel Greenberg, a former county tax commissioner indicted last year on multiple federal charges, used digital payment apps to send hundreds of dollars to at least one woman who attended parties.

Receipts viewed by CNN record payments that occurred between 2018 and 2019 and include at least one that indicated in a label that it was to offset travel.

One of the women said she received money from Greenberg after some of the parties. She said some of the payments were for offering sex, but didn’t say who she slept with. She said she had never received money directly from Gaetz.

Some of the parties were more low-key matters, the other woman said. Some took place in hotel suites at the end of political functions filled with alcohol.

“No one ever wants to stop partying, stop drinking, once you’ve had a few glasses of champagne in you,” she says.

A Gaetz spokesperson did not respond directly to CNN’s request for comment, but took issue with the use of anonymous sources.

According to people familiar with the investigation, authorities spoke to some of the women involved with the congressman and his close friend Greenberg, the former tax commissioner of Seminole County, Florida, who is currently facing 33 federal charges, including sex trafficking of a minor.

One of the women who spoke to CNN said she did in part because the image of Gaetz as potentially linked to sex trafficking that has emerged in recent days does not match what she has seen . Both women said they never saw anyone at parties who appeared to be underage. Neither has spoken to federal investigators, they said.

Congressman Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Speaks at a

Gaetz has denied ever paying for sex and, for the past two weeks, has sought to frame the allegations against him as the result of political prejudice in the justice system and the media.

He also accused investigators of turning his generosity towards women into something criminal.

“Providing flights and hotel rooms to people of age you date is not a crime,” Gaetz said in an interview with Fox News late last month.

The New York Times first reported that Gaetz made digital payments to women, and last Thursday The Daily Beast also reported on the Venmo transactions between Gaetz and Greenberg, and Greenberg and the Young Women.

Greenberg has been providing investigators with information since last year, including on encounters he and Gaetz have had with women who have received money or gifts in exchange for sex, a source familiar with the case confirms. at CNN.

Greenberg has met with investigators several times and his cooperation, which was first reported by The New York Times, may put additional legal pressure on Gaetz as investigators work to determine if he himself violated laws on sex trafficking or prostitution.

Last week, Greenberg’s attorney and a federal prosecutor told a judge Greenberg would likely reach a plea deal in the coming weeks, potentially giving the Department of Justice even more access to a witness with knowledge. intimate with any potential wrongdoing by Gaetz.

Speaking to reporters after Thursday’s hearing last week, Fritz Scheller, Greenberg’s attorney, declined to say whether his client would be willing to cooperate with the potential plea deal and would not disclose whether Greenberg had previously met with prosecutors to describe what he knows. about Gaetz.

He added, however, that his client is “in a unique situation”.

“I’m sure Matt Gaetz isn’t feeling very comfortable today,” Scheller said.

Scheller declined to comment on CNN for this story.

The Gaetz investigation began in the final months of the Trump-era Justice Department under then-Attorney General William Barr and was initially part of a larger investigation into the trafficking allegations against Greenberg.

As part of the ongoing investigation, investigators are examining Gaetz’s ties to several associates in Florida who may have benefited politically in return for the congressman’s favors, including escorts, travel and campaign donations, according to the reports. sources close to the investigation.

One featured event is a trip Gaetz took to the Bahamas with friends and young women, CNN reported. Investigators are looking to determine whether Gaetz benefited from travel and women in exchange for political favors as part of their larger investigation, the sources said.

A former member of the Florida House of Representatives and the son of a powerful figure in Republican state politics, Gaetz has cultivated a tight-knit circle of politically related friends who remained in his orbit after his trip to Washington in 2017.

'He really jumped on the Trump bandwagon': how a brash Matt Gaetz rose through Trump's Washington ranks'He really jumped on the Trump bandwagon': how a brash Matt Gaetz rose through Trump's Washington ranks

In recent days, a number of these allies have been drawn into the scandal. Chris Dorworth, a former state lawmaker Gaetz described as a friend and “legislative mentor,” resigned his post at a high-profile lobbying firm on Friday, a day after The New York Times reported that ‘he had spoken with Gaetz about running a third-party candidate in a local election – which could be seen as a violation of campaign finance laws if the third-party candidate was secretly paid to run.

“The current political environment is unpleasant, and I told Brian I don’t think it’s fair that the recent media storm deprives them of their assignments,” Dorworth wrote on Twitter, referring to Brian Ballard, the founder of the Florida-based lobby group. with close ties to the administration of former President Donald Trump.

Dorworth told CNN on Wednesday that he did not recall speaking with Gaetz about the candidacy of a third candidate and stressed that he did not think it would have been illegal if it had happened. He did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on his resignation.

So far, Greenberg appears to be the only person in Gaetz’s orbit who is currently the subject of scandal-related charges. First indicted in 2020 with alleged stalking of a political rival, Greenberg has since been accused by federal prosecutors of illegally accessing a motor vehicle database to obtain and use people’s personal information, including some with whom he “was engaged in” sugar daddy “relationships. »With.

Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg leaves the Orlando Federal Courthouse following his criminal harassment charge on June 23, 2020. Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg leaves the Orlando Federal Courthouse following his criminal harassment charge on June 23, 2020.

According to a person close to Greenberg, the former tax commissioner regularly sent messages on identical terms to several women inviting them to parties through dating sites called Sugar Daddy, where men hook up with women they compensate. usually by money or gifts.

Few details of the sex trafficking of a minor charge brought in Greenberg last year have been revealed to the public, but in an August indictment, prosecutors said the minor was between 14 and 17 years old. and accused Greenberg of illegally obtaining a photograph. and the person’s driver identification number.

People close to Greenberg and Gaetz have described them as good friends whose connection was as much about Republican Party politics in Florida as it was to socializing after hours.

Greenberg, a newcomer to the election when he won the county seat in 2016, appreciated the political status he gained through his friendships with Gaetz and other lawmakers, people close to the men said.

Out of the public eye, Greenberg would brag to his friends that he was partying with Gaetz and women, according to the person close to Greenberg.

For his part, Gaetz appears to have found an ally in Greenberg, donating $ 1,000 to one of his campaigns and promoting him to a higher post in an interview.

“If Joel were to run from Seminole Co, I think he would become the next 7th District congressman,” Gaetz told a Florida radio station in 2017.

This relationship is currently being tested. Gaetz, in turn, bolstered his defense team, hiring two New York attorneys late last week, including Marc Mukasey, a former federal prosecutor who also represented the Trump organization.

This story has been updated with additional reports on Greenberg providing information to investigators since last year, as well as comments from Dorworth.

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