Matt Gaetz's diversionary tactics aren't working

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Fox News host Tucker Carlson appeared to be left uncomfortable and confused after interviewing Rep. Matt Gaetz about allegations related to sex trafficking of a minor. CNN's Ryan Nobles reports.

Posted: Apr 1, 2021 5:31 PM
Updated: Apr 1, 2021 5:31 PM

It is now public knowledge that Rep. Matt Gaetz is under investigation by the Justice Department, which is reportedly looking into whether he paid for the travel expenses of a 17-year-old girl across state lines to entice her into sexual activity. And Gaetz did not take the breaking of the news quietly.

The investigation apparently developed out of the federal case against Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector who stands charged with sex trafficking, identification document fraud, stalking and other offenses. Greenberg was indicted last summer and faces trial in June. Greenberg has pleaded not guilty.

Recognizing that being under investigation for sex trafficking is a very bad look, as soon as the news broke, Gaetz immediately sprung into action to defend himself against and divert attention from the reported allegations.

Unfortunately, Gaetz's responses likely only made things worse. It is a bad thing -- not to mention likely a violation of Justice Department regulations -- when information about investigations leaks into the public realm, and it is understandable that Gaetz would be upset by this reporting about him. But if I may offer Congressman Gaetz a piece of free legal advice: Hire yourself a good lawyer if you don't already have one and make that person's job easier by keeping your mouth shut.

Gaetz could and should have stuck with a plain old denial, saying that he did nothing wrong, does not believe he will be charged and looks forward to being vindicated, as a defense lawyer might have said on his behalf if given the chance. Instead, though, Gaetz went much further. He denied the existence of the 17-year-old and said "no part of the allegations against me are true."

However, he also provided information that might be helpful to the law enforcement officials investigating him, admitting to "generosity" to ex-girlfriends and telling Tucker Carlson on air that "providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you're dating who are of legal age is not a crime." And most bizarrely, he appeared to suggest that Carlson and his wife went to dinner with Gaetz and a young woman of interest to authorities, thereby making both Carlson and his wife potential witnesses in the matter, a development that reportedly angered Carlson and prompted Carlson to immediately respond that he had no recollection of what Gaetz was talking about.

And Gaetz didn't stop there. He tried to explain away the allegations against him by lobbing some bombshell accusations of his own, claiming that he and his father are the victims of an extortion plot by individuals who demanded $25 million in exchange for helping Gaetz with the sex trafficking investigation. Gaetz named a former DOJ lawyer, David McGee, as one of his extortioners, describing him as "one of the former colleagues of the current DOJ," and alleging that "the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation."

The extortion allegation, which prompted a separate investigation out of a different DOJ office, contends that Gaetz's father was asked for money to help secure the release of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent kidnapped in Iran, in exchange for help with Matt Gaetz's legal troubles. Gaetz's father provided news outlets with documents allegedly given to him as part of the scheme.

But Gaetz's attempt to draw this link to explain away the investigation into him fails. McGee left DOJ more than two decades ago and there is no reason to believe -- and Gaetz has supplied none -- that McGee has anything to do with DOJ's Gaetz investigation. McGee has denied extorting the Gaetzes, and denied knowing anything about the sex trafficking investigation other than having heard rumors about it. McGee does admit speaking to Gaetz's father, but claims that there was nothing untoward about the conversation.

Moreover, and contrary to Gaetz's claim that DOJ's investigation may have been motivated by his politics, the sex trafficking investigation started last year when Donald Trump was still the President and William Barr was still the attorney general. Barr was reportedly briefed multiple times on the Gaetz trafficking investigation, and did not object to it. The claimed extortion, by contrast, started by Gaetz's account on March 16 of this year.

In other words, whatever the merits of the claimed extortion investigation would have been -- which we'll now never know because of Gaetz's actions exposing it -- there is no basis at all to believe that the private citizens alleged to be behind extortion attempts beginning two weeks ago also caused the DOJ investigation into sex trafficking to begin months ago.

Obviously, I have no idea whether Gaetz should or will be charged for sex trafficking. But I can assure you of one thing: While the diversionary tactics Gaetz employed here may gain some traction on social media and cable news in the circles where Gaetz enjoys support, prosecutors will not be distracted from their jobs. And if Gaetz ends up facing federal sex trafficking charges, it's going to take a lot more than finger pointing and ranting on Fox News to get him out of that situation.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 479326

Reported Deaths: 9353
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32779484
Hinds30924582
DeSoto30319353
Jackson23542341
Rankin21235366
Lee14803219
Madison14120271
Jones13327223
Forrest13078236
Lauderdale11501303
Lowndes10377176
Lamar10163130
Pearl River9008217
Lafayette8193137
Hancock7404111
Oktibbeha6909122
Washington6900150
Monroe6459159
Neshoba6441201
Warren6387163
Pontotoc623093
Panola6203125
Bolivar6072144
Marshall6068121
Union571386
Pike5574135
Alcorn533289
Lincoln5283131
George466072
Scott454796
Leflore4444140
Prentiss443377
Tippah442180
Itawamba441599
Adams4376116
Tate4327101
Simpson4313112
Wayne430766
Copiah429587
Yazoo419686
Covington413292
Sunflower4123104
Marion4073104
Leake395486
Coahoma391098
Newton367274
Grenada3543104
Stone350359
Tishomingo333288
Attala324286
Jasper313162
Winston303091
Clay294173
Chickasaw286265
Clarke279890
Calhoun263940
Holmes261387
Smith248048
Yalobusha219647
Tallahatchie217550
Walthall209958
Greene206845
Lawrence205732
Perry198553
Amite197651
Webster195042
Noxubee177739
Montgomery171654
Jefferson Davis167442
Carroll161437
Tunica150834
Benton141533
Kemper138039
Claiborne126134
Choctaw126026
Humphreys125937
Franklin116328
Quitman103426
Wilkinson101536
Jefferson87333
Sharkey62320
Issaquena1926
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 778549

Reported Deaths: 13665
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1105871747
Mobile704651206
Madison49152610
Baldwin35946479
Shelby35796302
Tuscaloosa33410532
Montgomery32906672
Lee22231216
Calhoun20791397
Morgan19605326
Etowah18837449
Marshall17465272
Houston16452368
St. Clair15233293
Limestone14376182
Cullman14348246
Elmore14241256
Lauderdale13298278
Talladega12699230
DeKalb12036233
Walker10430323
Autauga9568133
Blount9555152
Jackson9235146
Coffee8728169
Colbert8426179
Dale8410170
Escambia6526114
Tallapoosa6501172
Covington6396163
Chilton6293141
Russell598555
Franklin5719100
Chambers5315133
Marion4734115
Dallas4665182
Clarke457076
Pike456294
Geneva4315116
Winston417192
Lawrence4086108
Bibb401680
Barbour341968
Marengo323183
Butler314988
Monroe314652
Pickens300470
Randolph299955
Henry298356
Hale289383
Cherokee284652
Fayette275672
Washington244848
Crenshaw235168
Clay225163
Macon217657
Cleburne217149
Lamar192140
Conecuh179646
Lowndes170158
Coosa166432
Wilcox155736
Bullock147742
Perry136036
Sumter124136
Greene120142
Choctaw72826
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