For the past three months, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has reportedly needed even more hands on deck to untangle the many knots of a federal sex trafficking investigation of Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.
As with most inquiries by the department, the details of the ongoing probe which started this March are mostly being kept under wraps. And according to the Justice Department, the addition of expert prosecutors to complex cases like this one is standard.
Added to the Florida-based probe is Todd Gee, a prosecutor from Washington, D.C., who also serves as the deputy chief of the Public Integrity Section of the DOJ’s criminal division. That department mostly scrutinizes public corruption cases and specifically tasks itself with allegations involving high-profile individuals from the local to federal level.
The name of the second prosecutor, who is reportedly an expert in child exploitation crimes, has not been disclosed. The Justice Department declined a request for comment.
Gaetz has not yet been charged with a crime and he has adamantly proclaimed he is innocent of allegations asserting he paid women for sex as well as paid a 17-year-old girl to travel with him across state lines and have sex at his beck and call. Such conduct is illegal under federal statutes, but Gaetz has insisted that the sex trafficking investigation stems from a $25 million extortion plot lobbed against him and his father, Don Gaetz.
One of the men who allegedly initiated that extortion scheme, Stephen Alford, pleaded not guilty earlier this month to charges that he told the Gaetz family he could help them secure a pardon from former President Donald Trump or get the Justice Department to squash the looming trafficking probe if the congressman’s family would help fund a rescue mission for a U.S. hostage in Iran, Robert Levinson.
When Alford made the request, Don Gaetz lawyered up and alerted the FBI.
Matt Gaetz has maintained the Justice Department’s probe is bogus and the Republican lawmaker just 24 hours ago spent time peppering Attorney General Merrick Garland with questions about how the department vets it prosecutors during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.
Specifically, Gaetz asked Garland if there were any limits on hiring prosecutors who have “been lobbyists, partisan committee staff, or political consultants.” He also asked if any of those people might be serving in the Public Integrity Section—the same division that Todd Gee, the newly named prosecutor to the Gaetz case, calls home.
Gee once served as a staffer to the House Homeland Security Committee during the George W. Bush administration and was, years ago, part of the legislative staff for Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who today leads the committee investigating Jan. 6 .
Garland told Gaetz that weighing a prospective civil servant’s personal political views in the hiring process was against policy but once they become a prosecutor, people are required to “get rid of whatever preconceptions they had before.”
Channeling his best Joseph McCarthy impression, Gaetz pressed the attorney general to produce a list of every political consultant, congressional employee, or onetime lobbyist that now populates the Public Integrity Section.
Garland said he would not do so.
In related developments, this week a federal judge in Orlando agreed to delay the sentencing of Joel Greenberg, a onetime Seminole County, Florida, tax collector and self-professed “wingman” to Gaetz.
The disgraced public official has sought a delay in sentencing so that he could continue cooperating with authorities in the probe now appearing to hover around Gaetz.
Greenberg, investigators believe, connected the congressman to young women at sordid, drug-fueled parties as well as through online sites where the men would exchange money, travel, and other gifts for sex. Receipts from Apple Pay and cash apps like Venmo showed funds flowing to one of the young women from both Gaetz and Greenberg.
Greenberg is now expected to be sentenced in March 2022.