It’s an unorthodox strategy that former prosecutors and defense lawyers have labeled dubious and perhaps even counterproductive, as Gaetz’s interviews this week run the risk of fodder for prosecutors if they build a possible human trafficking case against him. But Gaetz’s path, they said, is carried by politicians who care more about the court of public opinion than about the courtroom – not more visible than the former president, for whose policies Gaetz campaigned.
“It seems to me that he’s digging a deeper hole,” said David Weinstein, a former US assistant attorney from the southern district of Florida, of Gaetz. “His statements yesterday seem to have believed the allegations and not defeated them.”
Since the first report he was exposed to a Justice Department investigation into the possible trafficking of underage girls, Gaetz has been channeling the former president when trying to explain the investigation. One of Gaetz’s claims eerily resembles Trump’s response to the federal investigation into his ties to Russia: It’s all part of a DOJ-orchestrated smear, says the congressman, designed to silence a prominent Conservative.
Other Gaetz answers served as a further distraction, all without definitive proof or refutation of the allegations of human trafficking that he is facing: It is an elaborate blackmail act that is supposed to bring his wealthy family of millions to its knees. Oh, and the DOJ once tried to convince a previous romantic interest to burden him with a pay-for-play scandal, he adds.
Incidentally, says Gaetz, his father intended to carry a wire to catch the current blackmailers, one of whom had a bizarre request to free an American hostage in Iran.
So passed the first 24 hours of Gaetz’s ongoing media flash that began minutes after the New York Times published the first story about the human trafficking probe.
Along the way, he admitted that he had promoted romantic interests across state lines and paid for their travel, but insisted that the young women were all of legal age and that he was simply chivalrous. These comments, legal experts say, contradict the typical defense strategy of denying and keeping allegations down.
There’s a world this strategy could be effective in, said William Jeffress, who represented former Dick Cheney aide Scooter Libby for leakage fees – but it can also backfire.
“An aggressive, anything goes strategy can be very effective if you are very sure what evidence will come out. If the Gaetz tapes rely on the extortion lawsuit, it could be upheld even if the teen’s testimony is incriminating (as I have had to believe since the DOJ opened an investigation), “Jeffress said. “But if the extortion claim doesn’t convince, its credibility is shot down and its problem is more serious than it had to be.”
But one thing that the Trump era also proved is that unless you’re Donald Trump and you’re in the White House, his strategy doesn’t work as well.
“You never know the strength of the government case or the full details of the government’s investigation. It might be unnecessary for you to admit an important fact or make a false exculpatory statement,” said Sol Wisenberg, a criminal defense attorney and former deputy at Ken Starr’s Independent Law firm. “However, civil servants and celebrities often choose to take this risk in order to survive their careers.”
However, Gaetz has violently denied the allegations against him. “I’m not looking for an excuse. I didn’t do anything wrong or wrong,” said Gaetz to Tucker Carlson on Tuesday evening. The second GOP legislature later informed POLITICO that he had not asked his ally Trump for forgiveness before the former president took office have laid down.
However, when Gaetz posed as the victim of a conspiracy against Conservatives, he omitted the fact that the investigation against him began during the tenure of Trump-era Attorney General Bill Barr, who instituted new guidelines that allow any investigation of a candidate for an office had to be notified to the attorney general himself. Barr had given the investigation at least a tacit blessing last summer and, according to sources, partially avoided a private meeting with members of the House Judiciary Committee last year in order not to run into Gaetz.
Legal experts said Gaetz’s strategy was confusing in part because he has now publicly admitted that a central element of the trial against him – he paid to have women cross state lines – even when he says it was the pursuit of legitimate romantic interests . Additionally, in his rush to distract himself from the news, Gaetz may have damaged any ongoing extortion investigation by exposing it.
Gaetz said the investigation into the alleged blackmail plan had already been destroyed when the New York Times sources told the New York Times the upcoming investigation into his behavior.
Trump, of course turned the strategy into a personal brand after the scandal. As his presidency moved from one crisis to the next – including several that posed a clear legal risk to Trump himself – the then-president turned, distracted, and even tried to turn the tables by accusing them of criminal behavior or worse. Leaning heavily on friendly media, Trump bought time and air raid until he could get through the chaos of the moment.
For example, Trump beat up Justice Department officials who lobbied the investigation into his campaign’s relations with Russia. He slammed judges who had ruled against him in important 2020 election cases. And he mocked Stormy Daniels as a “horse face” when details of a Trump-approved payout surfaced to silence her about their affair.
So far, Gaetz has continued to enjoy the support of his GOP colleagues. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told reporters he believed Gaetz’s disapproval. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), A Trump student who is no stranger to conspiracy theories, charged the case against Gaetz as part of a long-standing propaganda battle against unknown enemies.
“Remember all the conspiracy theories and lies like Trump / Russia collusion and propaganda that the media put out,” Greene tweeted. “Take it from me, rumors and headlines are not the same truth. I’m at @mattgaetz.”
House of Representatives GOP chairman Kevin McCarthy said he would keep Gaetz on his committees – including the judicial committee that oversees the FBI and DOJ – unless the allegations prove “true”.
“The consequences are dire,” McCarthy told Fox News on Wednesday. “If it did come true, we would remove it. At the moment he is saying that it is not true and we have no information. Let’s get all the information. “
Under house rules, however, lawmakers must give up their committee positions when they bring criminal charges.
The blackmail attempt that Gaetz claims seems to be credible. It emerges from emails showing that Gaetz and his father worked with the FBI to uncover the system. However, these efforts have little influence on whether the human trafficking case against Gaetz is ultimately confirmed.
It is unclear whether the attorney Gaetz hired a lawyer to represent him in this matter. But when he does, it’s easy to predict what to say.
“Most lawyers would advise an examined client to remain silent,” said Barb McQuade, a former US attorney from the Eastern District of Michigan.