If I were Matt Gaetz, I’d just turn off all of my social media and unplug every television set in my house because there is nothing positive about that man in the news. Thursday was perhaps his worst day yet, as at least five different damaging stories were published in connection to a federal investigation that he allegedly trafficked underaged girls for sex.
This is gonna be a bit of a ride, so strap in.
The most damning story comes from the Daily Beast, which obtained Venmo records of Gaetz sending money to his pal Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector charged with dozens of federal counts of sex trafficking. The records show that Gaetz sent two late-night Venmo transactions in May 2018 to Greenberg totaling $900. The first field was titled “Test.” In the second, Gaetz wrote “hit up ___.” The blank is the girl who was allegedly paid for sex, but the Daily Beast isn’t revealing her name for privacy reasons. Greenberg then paid three women $900, with subject lines “Tuition,” “School,” and “School.”
Story No. 2.
Earlier that day, Greenberg’s attorney appeared in court for a six-minute hearing and said that his client is working on a plea deal with prosecutors. “I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Orlando after the hearing. Basically, he is expected to plead guilty and is all but certain to allege that Gaetz is guilty of some of the crimes the feds are investigating.
This prompted the first Republican in Congress to call for Gaetz’s resignation. “Matt Gaetz needs to resign,” Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger tweeted Thursday night. He linked to the Daily Beast article about the Venmo transactions. That’s the third story.
Are you following me? I got a fourth for you.
The New York Times reported, again, on Thursday, that Gaetz and a Florida lobbyist, Chris Dorworth, discussed influencing a 2020 state Senate race. The two men allegedly discussed putting a third-party candidate on the ballot to help improve the chances of Gaetz’s associate, Jason T. Brodeur, to win the race.
Here is more on that alleged plan, per the Times:
Though recruiting a third-party candidate to run for office and funnel votes from another candidate is generally legal, the practice of secretly paying so-called ghost candidates, who are paid to run on a third-party ticket, is typically considered a violation of campaign finance laws.
In Mr. Brodeur’s race, a third candidate did appear on the ballot: Jestine Iannotti. Though she had no party affiliation, raised little money until the final months of the race and did little campaigning, fliers depicting her as a Democrat were sent to voters. One featured a stock photo of a Black woman and said, “Jestine Iannotti will always be there for us.” Ms. Iannotti is white.
Mr. Brodeur, through a spokeswoman, said he knew nothing about the fliers and had nothing to do with them. Neither Mr. Gaetz nor aides responded to calls, texts or emails seeking comment.
Mr. Dorworth said that he did not recall a conversation with Mr. Gaetz about running a third candidate and that “there would be nothing illegal about it if we had,” so long as they did not pay that person to seek office.
“I never met the woman who did run,” Mr. Dorworth said. “Never spoke to her, communicated by any written device, gave her any money or anything else.”
Brodeur ended up winning the race, raising more than $3 million for the campaign. That’s a huge amount of money for a state senate, by the way. Again, that is an allegation, but one that is being explored.
Take a breath. Here is story No. 5.
A conservative consultancy firm connected to Gaetz, Logan Circle Group, is allegedly threatening journalists over their coverage of the congressman, according to Politico.
“We are seeking an immediate print and on-air statement of retraction. Failure to comply with this request may result in litigation,” Erin Elmore, a Season 3 contestant on The Apprentice wrote in an email to a Politico reporter on Wednesday following the publication of an article describing the reluctance among Trump and his allies to defend Gaetz.
Two other Politico reporters were contacted by Elmore and threatened with lawsuits over their coverage. Threatening reporters is never a good thing, so if this group thinks it’s helping Gaetz, they certainly aren’t.
That’s the five news angles I could find so far that dropped Thursday. It’s basically a slow drip of details connected to the federal case and other messy stuff out of the Gaetz camp making it to the public and none of it is good.
Happy weekend, congressman!