WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican firebrand known for his strong support of former President Donald Trump, said Wednesday that the Justice Department has ended a sex trafficking case with no charges against him.
The conservative who represents much of the Florida Panhandle issued a statement through his congressional office that the long-running investigation was over. Gaetz had insisted throughout he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
“The Department of Justice has confirmed to Congressman Gaetz’s attorneys that their investigation has concluded and that he will not be charged with any crimes,” the statement said.
The department did not immediately response to a request for comment. The development was first reported by CNN.
While he is a relatively junior member of Congress, Gaetz has gained national attention through his frequent cable news appearances in recent years in which he offered an unvarnished defense of Trump. The decision not to charge Gaetz removes a shadow that had threatened his political career. Few Republicans had rushed to support him, and some had treated him like a pariah.
Federal prosecutors were investigating whether Gaetz and onetime political ally Joel Greenberg paid underage girls and escorts or offered them gifts in exchange for sex, according to two people familiar with the case who were not authorized to public discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Greenberg, a fellow Republican who served as the tax collector in Florida's Seminole County, admitted as part of a plea deal with prosecutors that he paid women and an underage girl to have sex with him and other men. The men were not identified in court documents when he pleaded guilty.
Greenberg was sentenced in late 2022 to 11 years in federal prison for a variety of crimes.
Prosecutors had also been investigating whether Gaetz and his associates tried to secure government jobs for some of the women, the people said. Prosecutors were scrutinizing Gaetz’s connections to the medical marijuana sector, including whether his associates sought to influence legislation Gaetz sponsored.
Gaetz gained national attention through his frequent cable news appearances in recent years in which he offered an unvarnished defense of Trump.
Anderson reported from St. Petersburg, Florida, and Price from New York. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.
Curt Anderson, Michelle L. Price And Farnoush Amiri, The Associated Press