The partiers, sometimes dressed in formal attire from a political event they had just left, mingled and shared drugs like cocaine and ecstasy. Some had sex.
Gaetz, the brazen Republican, liked to discuss politics, said one of the women. He was acting like a “frat type party boy,” she said, and sometimes took pills she believed were recreational drugs.
Details of the parties that were not previously reported were given to CNN by two women who have attended several of them in recent years. Both spoke on condition of anonymity.
Federal investigators are investigating whether Gaetz entered into a relationship with a woman who began at the age of 17, according to the people familiar with the investigation. Investigators have also followed up allegations from witnesses and other evidence that Gaetz may have consumed cash and drugs in dealing with the young women.
After a few parties, the money would change hands. Receipts verified by CNN, according to Gaetz and his associate Joel Greenberg, a former county tax commissioner who was charged with several federal charges last year, used digital payment applications to send hundreds of dollars to at least one woman who attended the parties.
The receipts displayed by CNN track payments made between 2018 and 2019 and include at least one receipt that states on a label that the trip should be offset.
One of the women said she received money from Greenberg after a few parties. She said some of the payments were for providing sex but didn’t tell who she was sleeping with. She said she never received any money directly from Gaetz.
Some of the parties were more reluctant matters, the other woman said. Some took place in hotel suites at the end of alcohol-filled political events.
“Nobody ever wants to stop partying, stop drinking when they have a couple of glasses of champagne in them,” she said.
A spokesman for Gaetz did not respond directly to CNN’s request for comment, instead challenging the use of anonymous sources.
According to people familiar with the investigation, authorities have spoken to some of the women who deal with the congressman and his close friend Greenberg, the former tax commissioner in Seminole County, Florida, on lesser terms.
One of the women who spoke to CNN said she did so in part because Gaetz’s image of being potentially linked to the sex trafficking that has emerged in recent days is inconsistent with what she saw. Both women said they never saw anyone at the parties who appeared to be underage. Neither has spoken to federal investigators, they said.
Gaetz has denied ever paying for sex and for the past two weeks has tried to articulate the allegations against him as a result of political bias in the judicial system and in the media.
He has also accused investigators of turning his generosity towards women into something criminal.
“Providing flights and hotel rooms to people you meet who are of legal age is not a crime,” Gaetz said in an interview with Fox News late last month.
The New York Times first reported that Gaetz made digital payments to women, and last Thursday, The Daily Beast also reported on Venmo transactions between Gaetz and Greenberg, as well as between Greenberg and young women.
Last week, Greenberg’s attorney and a federal attorney told a judge that Greenberg will likely reach an agreement in the coming weeks that may give the Justice Department access to a witness who knows full well that Gaetz may have committed wrongdoing.
After the hearing on Thursday last week, Fritz Scheller, Greenberg’s attorney, spoke to reporters and declined to say whether his client would be willing to cooperate as part of the possible plea and would not divulge if Greenberg was already with Prosecutors would have met to describe what he knew about Gaetz.
However, he added that his client was “uniquely located”.
“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very well today,” said Scheller
Scheller declined to comment on this story to CNN.
The Gaetz investigation began in the final months of the Trump-era Justice Department under then Attorney General William Barr and was initially part of a broader investigation into human trafficking allegations against Greenberg.
As part of the ongoing investigation, investigators are investigating Gaetz’s connections to several Florida employees who may have benefited politically from granting the congressman favors such as escorts, travel, and campaign donations, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
One event in focus is a trip that Gaetz took with friends and young women to the Bahamas, reported CNN. Investigators are trying to determine whether, as part of their broader investigation, Gaetz was given travel and women in return for political favors.
As a former member of the Florida House of Representatives and the son of a powerful figure in Republican politics, Gaetz had a close circle of politically connected friends who remained in orbit after his trip to Washington in 2017.
In the past few days, some of these allies have become embroiled in the scandal. Chris Dorworth, a former lawmaker whom Gaetz has referred to as a friend and “legislative mentor”, stepped down from his post with a high-profile lobbying firm on Friday, the day after the New York Times reported he spoke with Gaetz about running a third-party candidate in a local election – a possible violation of campaign finance laws.
“The current political environment is uncomfortable, and I told Brian I didn’t think it was fair for the recent media storm to deviate from their missions,” Dorworth wrote on Twitter, referring to Brian Ballard, founder of the closely-linked Florida-based lobby group on the administration of former President Donald Trump.
Dorworth told the Times he did not recall speaking to Gaetz about choosing a third candidate. He did not respond to CNN’s request to comment on his resignation.
So far, Greenberg appears to be the only person in Gaetz’s orbit currently charged with the scandal. Greenberg was first charged in 2020 for allegedly prosecuting a political rival and has since been accused by federal prosecutors of unlawfully accessing a motor vehicle database in order to obtain and use the personal information of people, including some people he “was in.” “Sugar Daddy” relationships were “implicated” with.
According to a person near Greenberg, the former tax commissioner regularly sent identical messages to several women inviting them to parties through so-called sugar daddy dating websites where men connect with women they usually compensate with money or gifts.
Few details of the sex trafficking were released to the public on a petty indictment filed in Greenberg last year. In an August indictment, prosecutors said the minor was between 14 and 17 years old and accused Greenberg of illegally receiving a photo and driver identification number for the person.
People close to both Greenberg and Gaetz have described them as good friends whose connection spanned both Florida Republican Party politics and after-hours socializing.
Greenberg, a freshman to the elected office when he won the county seat in 2016, was enjoying the political status he gained through friendships with Gaetz and other lawmakers, people close to the men said.
In public, Greenberg would boast to friends that he celebrated with Gaetz and women, according to the person near Greenberg.
For his part, Gaetz appeared to have found an ally in Greenberg who donated $ 1,000 to one of his campaigns and promoted him to higher office in an interview.
“If Joel were to flee from Seminole Co, he would likely be the next Congressman from the 7th district,” Gaetz told a Florida radio station in 2017.
This relationship is now being tested. Gaetz, in turn, has strengthened his defense team and hired two New York lawyers late last week, including Marc Mukasey, a former federal attorney who has also represented the Trump organization.