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Monday, December 09, 2019

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Former Trump Aide Testified That Gaetz Sought Sex Crime Pardon

A former White House aide told the House Select Committee probing the January 6, 2021, insurrection that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), one of former President Trump’s most vocal allies, sought something in return for his subservience: a pre-emptive presidential pardon.

The testimony, first reported by the Washington Post on Saturday, corroborates earlier reports that the Republican congressman had sought a pardon for himself and provides new insight into the nature of that requested favor.

According to the Post, citing sources privy to his testimony, Johnny McEntee, the former director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, told committee investigators that Gaetz had talked to him about a pardon in a brief meeting one evening.

McEntee testified that Gaetz had said that “they are launching an investigation into him or that there’s an investigation into him” without specifically referring to the Department of Justice. The Post also noted that investigators had asked McEntee if he believed the context of Gaetz’s pardon request pertained to the DOJ investigation into him over sex trafficking allegations, to which the aide replied, “I think that was the context, yes.”

The former Trump aide also testified that Gaetz had protested his innocence and whined that “they are trying to make his life hell, and, you know, if the president could give him a pardon, that would be great.”

McEntee added that Gaetz had told him he would ask Mark Meadows, Trump’s last chief of staff, for a pardon -- a development the select committee had revealed at a June hearing. At the time, though, it was uncertain exactly why Gaetz had asked for the pardon.

McEntee said he no longer remembers whether the brief conversation with Gaetz happened before or after the Capitol riot, the Post noted in its report, quoting sources aware of the testimony.

McEntee’s sworn testimony mirrors that of former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, who told the committee in a deposition that he believed Gaetz had sought a presidential pardon from Trump.

“The general tone was we may get prosecuted because we were defensive of the president’s positions on these things. The pardon that he was discussing, requesting was as broad as you could describe. From beginning — I remember he said, from the beginning of time up until today for any and all things. He had mentioned Nixon, and I said Nixon’s pardon was never nearly that broad,” Herschmann testified, according to taped testimony that the select committee unveiled during its hearing.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former Meadows aide, testified to the select committee in June that “Mr. Gaetz was personally pushing for a pardon, and he was doing so since early December, I’m not sure why. Mr. Gaetz had reached out to me to ask if he could have a meeting with Mr. Meadows about receiving a presidential pardon.”

The Justice Department kick-started its probe into whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws — specifically, whether he paid for sex and had sex with a 17-year-old and transported her across state lines — with former attorney general Bill Barr’s approval during the final months of the Trump Administration.

The probe, which Gaetz has repeatedly disputed -- and once tried to mock as “Gaetzgate" -- stemmed from a federal investigation into Joel Greenberg, one of the Floridian’s close confidants. In May 2022 Greenberg, formerly a Florida tax collector, admitted to a federal judge that he had solicited and paid a minor for sex and pleaded guilty to six sex trafficking charges. He is reportedly cooperating with the investigation of Gaetz.

Gaetz has repeatedly denied reports of his own misconduct. Last March, he wrote The Daily Beast, saying, “The last time I had a sexual relationship with a seventeen-year-old, I was seventeen.”

The following month, he penned an opinion piece in the Washington Examiner deriding the “swamp” for “repeating false allegations” about him and said that he had “never, ever paid for sex.”

“I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old.,” Gaetz added.

A representative for Gaetz ignored the Post’s questions about McEntee’s testimony but told the publication that Gaetz never directly asked the former president for a pardon.

“Congressman Matt Gaetz discussed pardons for many other people publicly and privately at the end of President Donald Trump’s first term,” the spokesperson said, per the Post. “As for himself, President Trump addressed this malicious rumor more than a year ago stating, ‘Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon.’ Rep Gaetz continues to stand by President Trump’s statement.”

Last May, Gaetz’s close confidant, Joel Greenberg, formerly a Florida tax collector, admitted to a federal judge that he had solicited and paid a minor for sex and pleaded guilty to six sex trafficking charges.

Gaetz's Ex-Girlfriend Testifies Before Grand Jury In Sex Crimes Probe

A federal grand jury heard testimony on Wednesday from the ex-girlfriend of Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican who is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for possible sex crimes.

NBC News was first to report the development and noted that the cooperation between the woman and federal prosecutors has been ongoing for several months. To protect her privacy, her name has not been disclosed; her cooperation is part of her effort to secure immunity.

Gaetz has not been charged with any crimes and has staunchly denied the swirling allegations. But it is believed, according to a wide variety of reported sources with insider knowledge, that Gaetz is under scrutiny for a trio of crimes including obstructing justice, sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl, and violating the Mann Act—a law that bars the transport of minors over state lines.

Neither Gaetz nor the Justice Department immediately returned a request for comment Wednesday.

The probe into the Florida Republican’s conduct has been ongoing for more than a year. It started when former Seminole County, Florida tax collector and friend to Gaetz, Joel Greenberg, was charged with a variety of unsavory crimes including sex trafficking a minor, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official. Greenberg pleaded guilty last summer and began cooperating with investigators to reduce his sentence.

Gaetz, it was revealed last April, sent Greenberg $900 over Venmo in May 2018. The very next day and over just a few minutes, Greenberg used Venmo to send the funds to three girls. The total Greenberg sent? $900.

Gaetz, in the memo portion for a cash transfer to Greenberg first wrote “test” and then “hit up ____.” The blank section, according to The Daily Beast, was not blank in the Venmo transfer memo, but rather it featured the nickname of a girl who was one of the recipients of the cash. Because she was a minor at the time, the nickname was not disclosed.

Greenberg, when paying out the $900 listed it as “tuition” and “school” in the memo.

Politico was first to report that Gaetz was the subject of an obstruction inquiry last June, citing two sources who said that this part of the probe began only after a former girlfriend of the congressman patched Gaetz into a phone call she had with a witness to the alleged sex crimes. That witness has since talked to prosecutors. Their testimony could be instrumental in shaping how prosecutors will charge Gaetz, if at all.

One of the alleged sex trafficking victims has told prosecutors Gaetz had sex with her when she was a minor and paid for the exchange. There have also been questions around Gaetz’s trip to the Bahamas in 2018, when he served as an adviser to Florida’s now-governor Ron DeSantis.

According to a Politico report from April, a young woman central to the trafficking probe was on a 2018 flight to the Bahamas courtesy of Halsey Beshears, then a top regulator working in Florida’s state government, and Jason Pirozzolo, a DeSantis gubernatorial campaign fundraiser. Bashears, Pirozzollo, and Gaetz were meeting in the Bahamas. Instead of flying with the women, Gaetz flew commercial.

While a source told Politico at the time that the women were all of age on the private flight, the report noted: “But questions surrounding the ages of some of the women surfaced immediately upon their return—three of them looked so young when they returned on Beshears’ private plane that U.S. Customs briefly stopped and questioned him, according to sources familiar with the trip, including a woman on the flight.”

News has been slow to trickle out about the career-jeopardizing investigation. In October, however, it was revealed that additional prosecutors—who specialize in sex trafficking—were added to the probe into the Florida congressman.

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Federal Prosecutor Calls Gaetz Crony ‘A Prolific Criminal' Who 'Was Not Alone

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Matt Gaetz may not be talking, but his partner in crime certainly is. Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax commissioner, has been spilling the beans to the Justice Department (DOJ) following a guilty plea he took earlier this year.

During a brief hearing on Monday in Orlando, Florida, Greenberg was given a second delay in his sentencing after Roger Handberg, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the judge that "the evidence takes us places, and, frankly, it takes us places we did not anticipate."

In May Greenberg, who faced dozens of federal charges, pled guilty to six, including knowingly soliciting and paying for sex with a minor. Part of his plea deal requires him to give "substantial assistance" to investigators—which we're sure is making his sidekick Gaetz quake in his boots.

Greenberg was scheduled to be sentenced on November 18 for his crimes, but prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell to give them until March, in order to continue following up on Greenberg's information to investigators.

"Mr. Greenberg was a prolific criminal," Handberg said in open court, according to Politico.

"Mr. Greenberg was not alone. This is an unusual situation in the number of different investigations and lines of investigation we are pursuing," Handberg said, explaining that the extension was necessary "because of the need to follow up on some of these leads."Gaetz's involvement wasn't mentioned in court Monday, but investigators are exploring a 2017 case in which he allegedly paid to have sex with a 17-year-old girl, Greenberg introduced him to. Gaetz has not yet been charged with any crimes and has denied having sex with any minors. He is, however, under investigation for obstruction of justice for phoning a witness during the ongoing probe into a sex crimes case, a law enforcement source confirmed to NBC News.

Politico reports that prosecutors have been looking at a trip to the Bahamas Gaetz took in 2018 to see if the congressman, along with Halsey Beshears, then a state legislator, and Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and GOP fundraiser for Gov. Ron DeSantis, violated the Mann Act, which outlaws people from crossing state lines to engage in prostitution. Also on the trip was the victim of sex trafficking, who may have been under 18 at the time. Smarmy as this all is, there's another very Jeffery Epstein-like tangle: another buddy of Greenberg's, Joe Ellicott, is being investigated for sex-trafficking a 17-year-old in 2017.

Greenberg faces a mandatory minimum of 12 years in prison, but could be sentenced longer—all depends on how hard he'll turn against his supposed allies. He will also be required to pay at least $655,000 in restitution to his victims, including Seminole County taxpayers. "[Greenberg] is on a path of rehabilitation, and to a lesser extent, redemption," said Greenberg's defense attorney Fritz Scheller

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More Bad News For Gaetz As Crony’s Sentencing Is Postponed Again

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A well-known former federal prosecutor is weighing in on the latest news about ex-Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg, who has pleaded guilty to seven felony counts including the sex trafficking of a minor.

Greenberg, a close friend of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) who he once called his "wingman," has been awaiting sentencing. He was originally charged with 33 criminal counts, but in May entered into a plea agreement.

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Gaetz Falsely Claims He Is ‘Exonerated’ In Trafficking Case

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) seized on right-wing media reports on Wednesday to falsely suggest that he has been exonerated in a federal investigation into whether he engaged in sex trafficking of a minor. There is no indication that prosecutors have cleared him of anything.

Gaetz retweeted a One America News report titled "Rep. Matt Gaetz Exonerated, Fla. Developer Charged With Extortion." That story claimed, without any evidence, "Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has been exonerated and the Department of Justice's sex trafficking investigation has been shut down as the man who made the false allegations is now behind bars."

Gaetz also tweeted a Newsmax story about the indictment of a man in an alleged scheme to extort him with the comment "EXONERATED: Alford Indicted for Extortion Plot Against Matt Gaetz. 'It certainly shows that these claims about me were never true. They were used to try to bleed my family out of tens of millions of dollars.'"

But even the friendly Newsmax report he shared contradicts this claim: "The indictment does not clear Congressman Matt Gaetz, but it most certainly adds to his credibility. He told us there was an extortion scheme at play."

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida announced Tuesday that it has indicted Stephen Alford in a "scheme to defraud a victim out of $25 million" based on a dishonest claim that he "could deliver a Presidential Pardon for a family member of the victim."

The Justice Department did not respond to an inquiry for this story. But sources told the Washington Post that the referenced victim was Gaetz's father, former Florida state Sen. Don Gaetz, and that the pardon would have been for his son.

The Post reported that Alford and others involved in the alleged extortion scheme were unconnected to the ongoing sex-crimes investigation into Matt Gaetz; they merely knew about it before it was reported publicly.

On March 30, the New York Times first reported that Gaetz was facing a federal investigation into whether he had engaged in a sexual relationship with an underage girl and paid for her travel in a possible violation of sex trafficking laws.

A spokesperson for Gaetz did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story, but the Florida Republican has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Last month, ABC News reported that Gaetz's former "wingman," former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, had provided federal investigators records of Venmo and Cash App transactions, photos, videos, and social media communications that could implicate Gaetz.

After pleading guilty in May to charges of sex trafficking of a child and five other federal offenses, none of which to date have named Gaetz, Greenberg said he would give "substantial assistance" to the Justice Department.

So far, House Republicans have stood by Gaetz and let him keep his committee posts — including on the House Judiciary Committee — during the investigation.

"Those are serious implications," Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox News in March. "If it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that was the case. But right now Matt Gaetz says it is not true, and we don't have any information. So let's get all the information."

The progressive research group American Bridge 21st Century posted audio on Monday of Gaetz at an August 27 New Hampshire campaign event in which he jokes about his response to a question from tourists about "weird sexual allegations" that he and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) have in common. Gaetz says he responded, "No, that was Jordan."

Jordan has been accused by former student wrestlers at the Ohio State University of ignoring sexual abuse by a team doctor during his tenure there as an assistant coach. Jordan has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crimes.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Gaetz Crony Greenberg Asks To Delay Sentencing While He Aids Prosecutors

ORLANDO, Fla. — Former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg has asked a judge to delay his sentencing on six federal charges, citing his ongoing cooperation with authorities as part of a plea deal he struck in May. Greenberg's sentencing is currently slated for Aug. 19. But in a motion filed Tuesday, his attorney, Fritz Scheller, asked to delay the hearing for 90 days. Scheller said his client, a close associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), has been cooperating with the government on an ongoing basis, having already participated in “a series of" interviews, known as proffers, with federal authorities. “Said cooperation, which could ...

As Ex-Girlfriend Flips For Prosecutors, Gaetz Insists He’s Ignoring Scandal

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has tried to set up a smokescreen, insisting he's "not focused on scandal" as news breaks his ex-girlfriend has flipped and is now cooperating with federal authorities, just like his former "wingman," Joel Greenberg.

Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for possible sex trafficking and possible sex with a 17-year old girl, in a Friday interview tried to minimize the charges against his friend, Greenberg, by suggesting he is in jail for defamation. Greenberg was facing dozens of charges, but currently the list stands at just six felonies after he entered a plea deal on Monday. Legal experts expect he is handing federal prosecutors evidence against the Florida GOP Congressman.

Meanwhile, federal authorities investigating Gaetz "have secured the cooperation of the congressman's ex-girlfriend," CNN reports.

"The woman, a former Capitol Hill staffer, is seen as a critical witness, as she has been linked to Gaetz as far back as the summer of 2017, a period of time that has emerged as a key window of scrutiny for investigators. She can also help investigators understand the relevance of hundreds of transactions they have obtained records of, including those involving alleged payments for sex, the sources said." CNN adds, citing people familiar with the matter.

"I'm not too worried about Joel Greenberg," Gaetz told Newsmax [see video below]. "Joel Greenberg is literally sitting in jail right now because he originally accused someone who was innocent – of having had a relationship with a minor."

Gaetz is accused of having had a relationship with a minor.

"That wasn't true, it was just a false thing that Joel Greenberg had said, and that's landed him in quite a bit of trouble."

Greenberg is not in jail for defamation.

"But I'm not focused on scandal. I'm focused on socialism," Gaetz said in what appeared to be another road-tested soundbite. "That's why I'm here in Arizona with Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene."

Hardly a state facing "socialism," Arizona narrowly broke for Joe Biden but it has a Republican governor and GOP majorities in both chambers of its state legislature.

"We're going to have about a thousand patriots behind us supporting the Arizona audit and our ongoing efforts for election integrity."

Watch:

Gaetz Crony Kept Committing Crimes Well After He Learned Feds Were Investigating Him

ORLANDO, Fla. — On an April morning in 2019, federal agents walked into the Tax Collector’s Office in Lake Mary and handed an employee a grand jury subpoena that revealed for the first time that the U.S. Department of Justice was investigating whether Joel Greenberg had used public money to benefit himself. That initial request for records related to Greenberg’s spending and investments was revealed in a plea agreement Greenberg struck with prosecutors which resulted in him pleading guilty to six federal crimes this week and agreeing to cooperate against other potential targets. The deal showe...