Sunday, April 4, 2021

Gaetz scandal reporting reveals pattern of misconduct - to say the least.

Following are just two of the possibly dozens of stories about the Matt Gaetz scandal threatening to blow up Washington.

The scandal is so salacious as to prevent being aired on national news.

CNN’s Dana Bash says she’s being flooded with messages from those who have worked with Gaetz. “If you could see my text messages from some of his current and former colleagues,” said Bash. “I actually can’t repeat what some of them say on morning television.”

Allegations against the GOP’s Matt Gaetz become even more serious reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog). Gaetz was already facing accusations of possibly having violated federal sex trafficking laws. The story has now advanced in a dramatic new direction.

It was Tuesday night when the New York Times first reported that the Justice Department is investigating Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) over allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a minor and may have paid for her to travel with him, possibly violating federal sex trafficking laws in the process.

The allegations, which the congressman has denied, came to the attention of federal law enforcement as part of a larger investigation into one of Gaetz’s political allies: Joel Greenberg, an almost comically scandalous figure, who has been indicted on a variety of crimes, “including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.”

Overnight, the New York Times advanced this story in dramatic ways.

A Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by The New York Times.

Practically every paragraph in the Times’ report, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, adds to the appalling nature of the allegations. The article added, for example, that federal investigators believe Greenberg would meet women “through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts,” and then introduce the women to the Republican congressman, “who also had sex with them.”

Gaetz, one of Donald Trump’s most flamboyant congressional allies, continues to deny the allegations.

Nevertheless, according to the reporting, the alleged sexual encounters occurred as recently as 2019 and 2020, with Gaetz and Greenberg allegedly instructing women on where to meet them and receive financial offers. “Some of the men and women took ecstasy,” the Times reported, “an illegal mood-altering drug, before having sex, including Mr. Gaetz, two people familiar with the encounters said.”

The Florida congressman also allegedly asked women to help recruit others “who might be interested in having sex with him and his friends.” Should potential recruits ask, the article added, Gaetz told the women “to say that he had paid for hotel rooms and dinners as part of their dates.”

Of particular interest, the newspaper went on to note that it had reviewed receipts from Cash App and Apple Pay “that show payments from Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg to one of the women, and a payment from Mr. Greenberg to a second woman. The women told their friends that the payments were for sex with the two men, according to two people familiar with the conversations.”

If accurate, this suggests there may be a financial paper trail – in effect, receipts – that investigators can follow as part of the ongoing investigation.

And while it’s worth emphasizing that there’s nothing inherently controversial about a man providing a woman with gifts such as meals and hotel stays, the Times added, “[I]f prosecutors think they can prove that the payments to the women were for sex, they could accuse Mr. Gaetz of trafficking the women under ‘force, fraud or coercion.’ For example, prosecutors have filed trafficking charges against people suspected of providing drugs in exchange for sex because feeding another person’s drug habit could be seen as a form of coercion.”

The same article went on to note, “It is also a violation of federal child sex trafficking law to provide someone under 18 with anything of value in exchange for sex, which can include meals, hotels, drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. A conviction carries a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.”

This reporting came on the heels of CNN reporting – which has also not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News – that said federal investigators are examining whether Gaetz used federal campaign funds while “paying for travel and expenses for the women.” CNN added that the Florida Republican “showed off to other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with,” including boasts made while on the floor of the U.S. House.

Congress isn’t holding formal legislative sessions this week, so Capitol Hill is relatively quiet, though it shouldn’t surprise anyone if there’s quite a bit of talk today about Gaetz resigning in disgrace.

Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos Staff reports that The floodgaetz are open: Matt Gaetz growing scandal is a threat to the whole GOP.

… the growing scandal around Gaetz is not something that took place in a vacuum. In addition to Gaetz and Florida Republican Joel Greenberg, there’s at least one other unnamed Republican official involved in this sex trafficking ring. More importantly, there are a lot more unnamed people involved—like the women who Gaetz, Greenberg, and associates paid to travel across states for the purposes of having sex. At least one of these women was reportedly under the age of 18. There may be more.

As the story expands, so does the possibility that Gaetz was involved in repeated acts that were both more serious, and more extensive, than early reporting suggested. That includes new information that indicates that Gaetz may have been directly involved in providing false IDs to the underage targets of his sex trafficking organization.

New reporting from The Daily Beast shows that the relationship between Gaetz and Greenberg extended beyond the 2019–2020 time frame originally reported elsewhere. That’s because a tip to the FBI shows Gaetz accompanied Greenberg on a late-night trip to his office in 2018 that triggered a security alarm. As it turns out, the FBI was already investigating Greenberg for something he was doing in that office: making fake IDs.

Gaetz has denied having sex with a 17-year-old, calling it “verifiably false.” However, the connection to an operation generating fake IDs certainly extends the possibility that not only did Gaetz knowingly recruit underaged girls for sex, but that this might not be a one-time incident.

Greenberg is now facing an astonishing 33-count indictment. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, those charges include bribery, theft, stalking a political opponent, using a state database to create fake IDs, and sex-trafficking involving a minor. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Greenberg “flaunted his close ties” to Gaetz, Donald Trump, and Roger Stone. Stone also made an appearance in the Sun Sentinel this week, claiming that Gaetz was the victim of “a smear.”

This is scandal that started out ugly and is getting worse by the hour. The long-standing connection to Greenberg and the late-night office visit suggests that Gaetz was aware of, if not involved in, the scheme to create fake IDs. Multiple sources have reported that Gaetz is under investigation for paying for minors to engage in interstate travel for the purposes of sex. That “game” that Gaetz was reportedly playing with other Republican congressmen involved “extra points” for sleeping with virgins. And at the same time all this was happening, Gaetz had a teenage boy living at his home despite that boy having a father and other relatives in the area.

Gaetz may be innocent. He relationship with Galban may be innocent. But at the moment, all of this looks extremely bad.

It’s far from over. On Friday morning, Gaetz’s communications director resigned “out of principal.” And CNN’s Dana Bash says she’s being flooded with messages from those who have worked with Gaetz. “If you could see my text messages from some of his current and former colleagues,” said Bash. “I actually can’t repeat what some of them say on morning television.”

What may be the most disturbing thing about Gaetz’s reported actions is his own sense that he was apparently untouchable. According to sources at ABC and The New York Times, Gaetz kept up his recruitment and pay of women well after Greenberg had been arrested, and even after Gaetz had announced his engagement.

What may be most disturbing about everyone else is that they’re just coming forward with their statements about Gaetz now, even though they’ve known exactly what he is for years. This is a scandal with boundaries that are still growing. And it’s not going to stop with Gaetz.

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