Matt Gaetz rep quits amid sex trafficking investigations
Rep. Gaetz is currently under investigation for possibly breaking federal sex trafficking laws
The New York Times reported that a spokesperson for Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz has abruptly resigned on Friday as public scrutiny continues to intensify.
Luke Ball, who served as a longtime aide and Gaetz’s communications director, began working with the congressman as early as this week to help develop a defense against the investigation.
Ball reportedly weighed the impact his departure would have on Gaetz, but decided that under the circumstances, leaving was the best choice, according to a source. He worked with Gaetz dating back to 2017 as a part-time staff member and earned a reputation as one of his closest aides. In 2018, he served as a deputy campaign manager and later as his press secretary and communications director.
Gaetz’s office confirmed Ball’s departure in a statement relayed by the chief of staff Jillian Lane-Wyatt: “The Office of Congressman Matt Gaetz and Luke Ball have agreed that it would be best to part ways,” the office says. “We thank him for his time in our office, and we wish him the best moving forward.”
Rep. Gaetz is currently under federal investigation by the Justice Department for possibly breaking federal sex trafficking laws for recruiting women online for sex and provided cash payments. Gaetz has denied the allegations.
The Justice Department opened an investigation into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old woman, who he paid to travel with him, The New York Times reported in March.
Business Insider reported that he bragged about the “access” to women through his association with former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg, who was indicted with 14 felony counts last year, including sex trafficking a minor.
“Matt was never shy about talking about his relationship to Joel and the access to women that Joel provided him,” a source told The Washington Post.
On Tuesday, Gaetz issued a statement on Twitter calling the investigation “extortion.”
“Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name. We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter,” he said.
He continued, “and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals. The planted leak to the FBI tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicates their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House Ethics committee should consider the allegations against Gaetz and remove him if they’re proven true.
“If in fact, these allegations are true, of course being removed from the Judiciary Committee is the least that could be done,” Pelosi told reporters, according to CBS News. “From what we’ve heard so far, this would be a matter for the Ethics Committee.”
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