The GaetzGate continues to chug along in the national news.
Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) considers the number of GOPlins publicly abandoning Matt Gaetz. Will Gaetz’s GOP critics drop their anonymity and call for his ouster? The grand total of congressional Republicans publicly calling for Matt Gaetz’s ouster is still zero.
As the scandal surrounding Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) continues to intensify, there are a corresponding number of reports about the inevitability of his ouster. The Hill published this report late Friday:
A defiant Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) says he has no plans to resign from Congress amid a federal investigation into whether he paid women — and a 17-year-old girl — for sexual favors. Yet behind the scenes, a growing number of Gaetz’s Republican colleagues are predicting his days on Capitol Hill are growing short. “In reality, yes, he won’t last long,” one member told The Hill on Friday.
To be sure, there’s been plenty of speculation along these lines in recent days. The Hill also noted last week, for example, that “a number of Republicans” were privately welcoming and expecting Gaetz’s political demise. Business Insider had a related report quoting a GOP congressional aide saying Republican leaders, eager to be rid of the grandstander, “will likely watch him completely implode in a matter of days without having to do a thing.”
At face value, the assessment seem obvious. Gaetz found it easy to persevere after his DUI controversy, but his ongoing scandal is vastly more serious. Common sense – and basic human decency – suggests the Florida Republican’s days on Capitol Hill are numbered.
But each of these reports about Gaetz’s future has something in common: the articles quote Republicans who did not want to be named on the record. These GOP insiders are willing to take rhetorical shots at their flailing colleague, but only if granted anonymity to speak freely.
In other words, Gaetz is a scandal-plagued mess, but we’re not yet at the stage at which Republicans are willing to call him out publicly. Maybe these GOP officials are afraid of Donald Trump – Gaetz is one of the former president’s most flamboyant and sycophantic allies – or perhaps they’re afraid of conservative media and the party’s far-right base.
Whatever the explanation, it’s been six days since the New York Times first reported that the Justice Department is investigating Gaetz over allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a minor, possibly violating federal sex trafficking laws in the process, and the grand total of congressional Republicans publicly calling for his ouster is still zero.
Rep. David Valadeo (R-Calif.) received a campaign contribution from Gaetz, and last week the Californian donated the money to an organization that supports victims of domestic abuse. But to date, that’s the only real action we’ve seen from GOP lawmakers distancing themselves from the Floridian.