Republicans keep their distance from Matt Gaetz

How Matt Gaetz is trying to change the subject

Minority Parliamentary Leader Kevin McCarthy has said he will speak to Gaetz about the matter, although it is not clear that this has happened. Republicans Gaetz attacked are keeping their powder dry in the midst of the ongoing investigation. And even former President Donald Trump failed to stand up for one of his staunchest allies in the House.

Trump brought up Gaetz’s situation in a recent conversation with an ally, speaking as if he was quietly figuring out if he should weigh in. The response was that he should stay as far away as possible, according to a source close to the conversation.

The collective silence surrounding the Gaetz inquiry is both a sign of the seriousness of the allegations under investigation and a reminder that much of the House GOP conference does not appreciate the Florida Republican’s antics.

Investigators are examining whether Gaetz broke federal sex trafficking and prostitution laws, including whether he had a relationship with a 17-year-old girl. No charges were filed and Gaetz denied the allegations. Gaetz was also criticized following the CNN report that he showed photos and videos of naked women, including while he was upstairs in the House.

Gaetz’s support – or lack thereof – among his fellow Republicans may ultimately not matter, as Gaetz has said he is not resigning and has denied any wrongdoing. On Tuesday, Gaetz even sent a fundraising email to his supporters over the reports of the DOJ investigation, claiming in the email: “A whole new smear campaign has been launched against me, but I fight to expose the truth. ”
Gaetz will make his first public appearance on Friday since last week’s interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, when he speaks at a Women for America First event to be held at former President Trump National Doral Miami Golf Resort.

But with a few friends on Capitol Hill, Gaetz could face some pressure in the conference once Congress returns from vacation next week and Republicans inevitably face questions from reporters about it.

The leaders of the Republican House have worked to stay out of the fray of the Gaetz controversy. While no one is rushing to defend the Florida Republican, they are also not doing all they can to condemn him.

McCarthy last week called the allegations against Gaetz serious and suggested that if the accusations were true they would remove him from the House Judiciary Committee.

“These are serious implications, if that turns out to be true yes we would take it off if it were,” McCarthy told Fox News last week. “But at the moment, as Matt Gaetz says, that’s not true, and we don’t have any information. “

McCarthy also said he plans to speak to Gaetz to hear his side of the story. However, it is not clear if this conversation took place. McCarthy’s office has yet to say whether this meeting has taken place.

A senior House GOP source said Gaetz likely wouldn’t lose his place on the Judiciary Committee unless he was charged. Conference rules require that an impeached member lose seats on the committee. But since Gaetz has denied the allegations and they are based on reporting, it is unlikely that he will be removed from his post until formal charges are filed, the source said.

In addition to McCarthy, the offices of GOP Whip Steve Scalise and Republican House Conference Speaker Liz Cheney did not respond to requests for comment regarding Gaetz’s future in Congress.

Gaetz attacked Cheney for his vote to impeach Trump in January, even going to his district to stage a rally condemning his impeachment vote.

The push to remove Cheney from office was a sign of why Gaetz was polarizing among Republicans in Congress even before the allegations surfaced.

Gaetz has been a staunch supporter of Trump since his election in 2016. He has focused less of his efforts in Congress on building relationships that could lead to legislation and more on becoming a television staple. on conservative networks defending the then president and prosecuting. its critics.

On Monday, Gaetz rebuffed the allegations in an op-ed and said he was “absolutely not resigning.” Gaetz also said his family was the victim of an extortion scheme, which the FBI was investigating separately. He described the situation on Monday as one in which the political enemies he has accumulated were now circulating.

“People won’t be surprised if bizarre claims are made about me soon after I decide to take over the Beltway’s most powerful institutions: the establishment; the FBI; Biden’s Department of Justice; the Cheney political dynasty; even the Department of Justice. under Trump, ”Gaetz wrote.

Gaetz had defenders. Republican Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and another close ally of Trump, said in a statement, “I believe Matt Gaetz. He should not be removed from the judiciary committee. Jordan faced his own accusations that he knew about sexual abuse committed by a team doctor while he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University decades ago, which he firmly denied.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a conspiracy theory embracing Georgia’s fiery Republican brand that was removed from its committees in a House vote this year, also tweeted in favor of Gaetz.

How Matt Gaetz is trying to change the subject

But most Republicans have remained remarkably silent. Lawmakers and GOP aides say it’s a sign they want to see what happens to the allegations against Gaetz, who has not been charged with a crime.

There is no sign yet that Gaetz will be removed from any committee, although he was one of the Republicans calling on Representative Eric Swalwell, a Californian Democrat, to be removed from the House Intelligence Committee after Swalwell been targeted by a suspected Chinese spy. Swalwell has denied the wrongdoing, saying he cooperated with the FBI when he notified it, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said he acted right in cutting ties quickly.

“Keeping Eric Swalwell on the intelligence committee is like putting Anthony Weiner on the ethics committee,” Gaetz tweeted in December.

At least one Republican is taking steps to distance himself from Gaetz. Representative David Valadao, a Californian Republican in a competitive neighborhood, donated campaign contributions he received from Gaetz’s campaign committee in 2018 and 2020 to an organization that supports victims of domestic violence.

“The Valadao Campaign for Congress donated contributions to the Marjaree Mason Center in Fresno to support victims of domestic violence,” said campaign spokesperson Andrew Renteria.

It is not yet known if the others will follow. CNN has contacted several GOP lawmakers who have received contributions from Gaetz, and they have not said or responded to requests for comment on whether they would return or donate the funds.

The House is in the middle of a two-week recess, allowing Republicans to largely avoid reporters’ questions about Gaetz. That could change next week when Congress returns – although there’s a chance Gaetz isn’t himself.

Gaetz is one of the Republicans who filed a letter with the House to allow proxy voting, which was allowed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gaetz has appointed Representative Michael Waltz, another Florida Republican, to vote by proxy in his place, although a spokesperson for Waltz said on Tuesday that Gaetz had not yet asked him to do so when he returned from Congress the next week.

“Representative Waltz has not been invited to vote by proxy in the next session,” the spokesperson said.

This story was updated with additional developments on Tuesday.

CNN’s Manu Raju, Lauren Fox, Annie Grayer and Jessica Dean contributed to this report.


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