Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has been one of the most vociferous defenders of Donald Trump and other senior GOP officials around in the years that he’s been in Congress, supporting whatever hellacious action or policy that the prior administration would concoct no matter how heinous.
Those years of loyalty, however, are not paying him much in the way of dividends now that the news that he is under investigation for sex trafficking of a minor by the Department of Justice — an inquiry that began during the Trump administration and is thus relatively immune from charges of being a politically-motivated witch hunt by Democrats.
As news organizations seek comments from senior Republican members in the House of Representatives, only the most extreme right-wing bulldogs in his party are rushing to his defense, as the usual suspects like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) spoke out on his behalf.
Rep. Jim Jordan to my CNN colleague @ryanobles:
“i believe Matt Gaetz”
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) March 31, 2021
The senior leadership of the Republican Party in the House, however, was much more circumspect towards the beleaguered Florida legislator as they considered the consequences if Gaetz is proven to be guilty of the accusations against him.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was faced with a dilemma when he was asked on Fox News about the allegations against Gaetz and his response in light of his own very vocal calls for Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA) to be removed from his position on the House Intelligence Committee because of his former relationship with an alleged Chinese intelligence operative (which Swalwell ended as soon the FBI informed him of their suspicions about the woman).
Backed into a corner by the question, Rep. McCarthy denied any knowledge about the story beyond what was on the news yesterday.
“Look, I haven’t heard form DOJ, I haven’t been able to talk to Matt Gaetz yet, I just read the story. Uhh, those are serious implications. If it comes out to be true, yes we would remove him if that was the case, but right now Matt Gaetz says that it is not true, and we don’t have any information, so let’s get all the information,” the GOP House leader equivocated.
Further pressed on why he thought Congressman Gaetz was the only member of the House of Representatives to oppose a non-partisan anti-sex trafficking bill back in 2017, McCarthy quickly denied having any insight into the inner workings of the Florida lawmaker’s mental processes when it came to making that shameful decision.
“I have no idea whatsoever why he would vote against that,” the seemingly embarrassed and exasperated House Minority Leader replied.
With House GOP leadership keeping their distance from Gaetz until they see the results of the DOJ investigation, Gaetz is likely smart to be considering leaving Congress to become an on-air personality at the right-wing news outlet Newsmaxas was reported yesterday before news of the investigation broke.
Matt Gaetz may soon become the first of the Trump loyalists in Congress whose tenure is brought short by the consequences of their behavior.
Hopefully, he won’t be the last.
You can watch clips of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s appearance on Fox News in the excerpts below.
"I have no idea whatsoever why he would vote against that" — McCarthy on Gaetz being only Republican to vote against an anti-sex trafficking bill in 2017 pic.twitter.com/h8gdou1kl4
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 31, 2021
Original reporting by Aaron Rupar at Vox.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.