Feds at the moment are investigating whether or not Matt Gaetz paid for escorts on his Bahamas journey
Prosecutors in the Justice Department’s public integrity section have begun probing a trip to the Bahamas Rep. Matt Gaetz and whether the by embattled Florida lawmaker accepted paid escorts as part of an influence campaign for medical marijuana.
The prosecutors are examining whether Gaetz accepted favors in exchange for official actions relating to marijuana legislation, which he has championed publicly. He has introduced legislation on the subject.
Sources said prosecutors are investigating potential pay-to-play arrangements, CNN reported Friday. The trip involved ‘several’ young women, and investigators are probing whether Gaetz accepted gifts, including travel and paid escorts.
There are strict limitations on the value of gifts lawmakers may accept, and they must be disclosed in public forms.
CBS News reported earlier this month that DOJ was examining the trip, where Gaetz was accompanied by marijuana entrepreneur Dr Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and co-founder of The American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association (AMMPA), in late 2018 or early 2019.
Pirozzolo footed the bill for the travel expenses and accommodations – as well as female escorts, sources told the network.
Investigators are allegedly looking into whether the escorts were illegally trafficked across state or international lines for the purpose of having sex with Gaetz.
A trip Matt Gaetz (left) allegedly took to the Bahamas with a marijuana entrepreneur Jason Pirozzolo (right) over two years ago is reportedly being scrutinized by federal officials investigating sex trafficking allegations against the Florida congressman
Dr Jason Pirozzolo (right) is a hand surgeon and co-founder of The American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association. He is pictured with his partner at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ State of the State address in 2019
Gaetz, a Republican congressman from Florida, is pictured with his fiancée Ginger Luckey
‘Traveling across state lines is what creates a federal hook for a prosecution,’ Arlo Devlin-Brown, a former prosecutor and partner at Covington & Burling, told CBS.
‘It doesn’t matter that [Gaetz] personally paid them as long as he knows someone is doing that.’
Investigators are also working to determine whether Gaetz accepted the escorts in exchange for political access or legislative favors, the sources said.
Prosecutors have not accused Gaetz or Pirozzolo of any wrongdoing. Gaetz has denied allegations against him and ever paying for sex. An attorney for Dr. Pirozzolo reached by DailyMail.com had no comment.
Gaetz told Fox News: ‘Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you’re dating who are of legal age is not a crime,’ following reports about his interactions with Joel Greenberg, a former county tax commissioner in Florida.
Investigators are also reportedly probing whether Gaetz was engaged in a relationship with a 17-year-old girl. A sex-trafficking charge against Greenberg reportedly involves the same girl.
‘If there’s evidence of a quid pro quo that the congressman was provided with benefits in return for him sponsoring some legislation that’s of interest to the donor, that’s a federal crime,’ Devlin-Brown said.
Pirozzolo spoke about his ties to Gaetz in a July 2018 Ganjapreneur podcast, where he said he was working with the congressman to draw up federal legislation to bolster medical research of cannabis.
‘Congressman Matt Gaetz is in the process of working on legislation up in Washington, DC, that will help facilitate research on the nationwide level. And we should see a lot of good benefit from them,’ Pirozzolo said.
The podcast came three months after Gaetz introduced the Medical Cannabis Research Act in Congress. He introduced the bill again in January 2019, but both times it was not brought to a vote.
Gaetz was a speaker at two conferences hosted by AMMPA, the organization Pirozzolo founded and serves as chairman of the board.
The first conference Gaetz spoke at in October 2017 was followed immediately by a fundraiser for his congressional campaign, according to the Central Florida Post. The second conference was in May 2018.
FEC records show that Pirozzolo made two separate $1,000 donations to Gaetz’ campaign in 2016 and 2017.
Gaetz is seen speaking at an American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association conference in May 2018. Pirozzolo is a co-founder and chairman of the association
Pirozzolo is pictured (right) at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ inauguration in 2019
Pirozzolo (left) is pictured meeting Donald Trump by Air Force One in Orlando in 2019
Reports of the investigators’ interest in the Bahamas trip came as Gaetz was already facing a string of lurid allegations, including claims he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, was involved in a Harry Potter-themed sex game, paid for sex using Apple Pay and showed Congressional colleagues on the House floor photos of naked women.
The Florida Republican has denied all allegations and gone on the offense, rapidly responding to the hits and appearing on conservative news networks to claim he’s the victim of a conspiracy.
He claims he was targeted in an extortion plot involving former Justice Department official David McGee, who was trying to extort $25million from his family to help rescue American hostage Robert Levinson from Iran. McGee denied Gaetz’s charge.
As with the previous allegations, Gaetz’ office denied the claims in the CBS report about the Bahamas trip.
‘Rep. Gaetz has never paid for sex, nor has he had sex with an underage girl,’ a spokesperson for the congressman said.
‘What began with blaring headlines about “sex trafficking” has now turned into a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults.
‘Yesterday, we even learned of some nonsense “pardon” story that turned out to be false, and today it’s just more euphemism.
‘It’s interesting to watch the Washington wheels grinding so hard every time one of their falsehoods gets knocked down.’
Donald Trump on Wednesday said Gaetz ‘never’ asked him for a pardon and offered a tepid defense of the embattled Florida Republican
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., prepares for the House Armed Services Committee hearing titled National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activities in the Greater Middle East and Africa, in Rayburn Building on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. He has been a top defender of former President Trump’s
Trump insists Gaetz ‘never’ asked him for a pardon and says ‘remember he has denied the accusations’ in first statement on GOP Rep’s sex scandal
TIMELINE OF THE GAETZ SAGA
MARCH 30: The New York Times reports that Gaetz is under investigation for a sexual relationship with an underage girl.
Details are sparse but the relationship is said to have happened two years ago.
Gaetz went on Tucker Carlson’s FOX News show that night to deny the allegations and claim he was the victim of an extortion plot.
He names David McGee as a DoJ official who is extorting him. McGee denies it.
MARCH 31: Gaetz’s father Don tells Politico that the extortion plot is real and that he was working with his son and the FBI to expose it
APRIL 1: Texts emerge to support Gaetz’s claim that he was being extorted and they introduce a new element to the saga – that the extortion plot was part of a ruse to rescue American hostage Robert Levinson from Iran.
Rep Matt Gaetz
Gaetz, 38, is the representative for Florida’s 1st congressional district.
He is a Trump ally who has ties to Roger Stone and he’s been known to fan the flames of controversy in the past.
He has DUI convictions, has been accused of inciting violence on Twitter and claimed that facial recognition technology proved some of the January 6 Capitol rioters were not Trump fans, but ‘antifa’ masquerading as them.
Gaetz’s father who was a well-liked Senator. He sold his company with his partners for $406million in 2004.
They had founded VITAS Healthcare in the 1980s. He was a senator for ten years from 2006 until 2016.
McGee was a prosecutor with the Department of Justice but he is now a private practice attorney.
According to his bio on his law firm’s website, he spent six years as the First Assistant at the United States Attorney’s Office and for seven years as the Lead Attorney for a United States Department of Justice Organized Crime Task Force.
Kent is an Air Force intelligence officer whose involvement in the alleged plot was only revealed on Wednesday night through the texts.
Levinson spent 22 years working for the FBI before he vanished in Iran in 2007. The government claimed they knew nothing about it but later admitted he had been working there for the CIA.
The last time he was seen alive was in 2011, when he appeared in proof of life photos. His family say that this month, they were given reason to believe he was dead.
Donald Trump on Wednesday issued his first statement on Matt Gaetz, saying the embattled congressman ‘never’ asked him for a pardon.
The former president also offered a tepid defense of Gaetz, pointing out the Florida Republican has ‘totally denied’ the accusations against him, including that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl.
‘Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,’ Trump said in his statement. ‘It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.’
Trump was commenting on a report in The New York Times that claimed Gaetz asked officials in the White House for a ‘blanket’ pardon for himself and his congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, just months before he was revealed to be under federal investigation for sex trafficking.
Gaetz will speak this weekend at a conference being held at Trump’s Doral golf club and resort near Miami.
The ‘Save America Summit’ is being organized by Women for America First, the same organization that paid for the federal permit for the Jan. 6 ‘Save America’ rally outside the White House that ended with thousands of people storming the U.S. Capitol.
Gaetz, on Tuesday, tweeted confirmation of his appearance at the conference.
It will be the congressman’s first public appearance since news of the federal investigation broke.
Meanwhile, two sources with knowledge of the situation told the New York Times that Gaetz, one of Trump’s fiercest defenders, approached the White House with the extraordinary request in his final weeks in office.
Aides told the president of Gaetz’s request but it was unclear if the two men ever had a direct conversation about it.
It came as investigators with the Department of Justice began questioning Gaetz’ associates about allegations against him, including that he’d had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, according to the newspaper.
The Times noted that it is unclear whether Gaetz or the White House knew about the DOJ investigation at the time that he approached Trump, as the sources said he did not make any mention of allegations when making the request.
Some Trump associates have now begun to speculate that Gaetz made his request for a group pardon because he knew of the trouble heading his way, the Times reported.
Gaetz in November had publicly called for Trump to issue blanket pardons for all of his allies – including himself – to protect from the ‘bloodlust’ of political opponents.
‘President Trump should pardon Michael Flynn. He should pardon the Thanksgiving turkey. He should pardon everyone from himself to his administration officials to Joe Exotic if he has to,’ Gaetz told Fox News.
‘You see from the radical left a bloodlust that will only be quenched if they come after the people who worked so hard to animate the Trump administration with the policies and the vigor and the effectiveness that delivered for the American people.’
Trump ultimately issued 116 pardons in his last month in office, but none of them were pre-emptive, even though he technically had the power to do so.
Approached by the Times this week, a spokesperson for Gaetz denied that he had privately asked Trump for a pardon.
‘Entry-level political operatives have conflated a pardon call from Representative Gaetz — where he called for President Trump to pardon ‘everyone from himself, to his administration, to Joe Exotic’ — with these false and increasingly bizarre, partisan allegations against him,’ the spokesperson said.
‘Those comments have been on the record for some time, and President Trump even retweeted the congressman, who tweeted them out himself.’