Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene were about to kick off a road show, traveling the nation to attack “the radical left” and insufficiently extremist Republicans. And then the other shoe dropped in the ever-developing scandal around Gaetz’s apparent habit of paying for sex, in one case with a minor.
That scandal has been developing for a month, starting with the revelation that Gaetz is under federal investigation as part of a broader sex trafficking investigation involving former Seminole County, Florida, tax collector Joel Greenberg, who is under indictment already. Gaetz initially tried to deflect by claiming his family was being extorted in a bizarre scheme involving a hostage in Iran who is generally believed to be dead—a claim that Gaetz mostly moved on from when it became clear that no one thought it exonerated him. Revelation after revelation followed: Gaetz had showed nude pictures of women to fellow members of Congress. As a Florida legislator, he participated in a sex game in which points were awarded for sex with different categories of women, including interns. He took a trip to the Bahamas paid for in part by a “marijuana entrepreneur” … and part of what was paid for may have included women.
So we’ve already heard a lot. Really, we’ve probably heard more than enough about Matt Gaetz and sex, because even before you get to the predatory behavior, just … ick. But there is more.
Gaetz typically didn’t pay women for sex directly—instead, he paid Greenberg, who then paid the women. That means Greenberg knows a lot, and since Greenberg is facing significant legal trouble, he appears to be motivated to talk. But before he started talking to the federal government, Greenberg talked to Roger Stone in late 2020 in hopes that Stone could convince Donald Trump to give him a last-minute pardon.
Greenberg talked to Stone a lot, and The Daily Beast has the receipts in the form of Signal chats between Greenberg and Stone, and a lengthy confession letter Greenberg wrote for Stone to use in his efforts with Trump. Of note, Gaetz had at one point posted a social media picture of himself, Stone, and Greenberg.
In the letter, of which The Daily Beast has multiple drafts, Greenberg describes learning through “an anonymous tip” that a woman—well, as it turned out, girl—in his and Gaetz’s sex trafficking scheme was 17 years old.
“Immediately I called the congressman and warned him to stay clear of this person and informed him she was underage,” Greenberg wrote. “He was equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation.”
They were so shocked and disturbed that they stayed away from the girl only until after she turned 18. She was one of the women paid by Greenberg immediately after Gaetz sent him $900 through Venmo with the note “hit up [her nickname].”
In his communications with Stone, Greenberg was hanging his argument for a pardon in part on the threat to Gaetz. “And while I have not had any communication with MG, he absolutely has to know that the sex charge they hit me with would be what they would hit him with,” he wrote in one of the Signal messages. “All he has to is explain to POTUS the situation and his exposure, and it would be very easy to do.”
”MG is like a son to POTUS. MG is like a brother to me.”
Well, we know how far “like a son” goes to Donald Trump, and now we know how far “like a brother” goes to Matt Gaetz. And to Greenberg, who seems to have been screenshotting his Signal chats with Stone before they could disappear, in just one of a series of insurance policies he set up for himself should the pardon effort fail, as it did.
Gaetz is defiant and is attempting to remain a significant figure in the Republican Party, as his planned tour with Greene shows. But even before the investigation into him became public, it was serious enough that then-Attorney General William Barr was reportedly taking steps to avoid being photographed near him. Attacking the media will only go so far if and when he faces federal charges.