In a series of tweets, Gaetz said he and his family were victims of an extortion program. The member of Congress forwarded a number of documents to POLITICO which he believed supported his blackmail allegations, but none could be immediately verified.
“In the past few weeks, my family and I have been the victims of organized criminal blackmail involving a former DOJ official seeking $ 25 million while threatening to smear my name,” he said on Twitter.
His family worked with federal agencies, he said, adding that his father “carried a wire to catch these criminals on orders from the FBI.” He said a Tuesday New York Times report was an attempt to “thwart this investigation,” and urged the Justice Department to publish the record in order to erase his name.
In an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, Gaetz said the 17-year-old “doesn’t exist” and that his father should pay a $ 4.5 million down payment to the former Justice Department official he was on the show – on Wednesday to “let the allegations” go away.
But when Gaetz explained the complex blackmailing act that included nonexistent pictures of him with child prostitutes, even Carlson seemed puzzled, particularly about the sex trafficking charge, which the congressman flatly denied.
“For the fifth time, I don’t really understand this story very well,” said Carlson.
“It was one of the strangest interviews I’ve ever had,” said the Fox host when his show came back from the commercial break. “Don’t quite get it, but we’ll bring you more when we find out,” he added.
Gaetz himself told Axios on Tuesday that he was “unclear” about the details of the allegations made against him and that “very little” had been said to him. However, he said he was “absolutely” confident that none of the women he dealt with were minors.
Gaetz’s rejection followed Tuesday’s Times report that the Justice Department was investigating whether lawmakers, a Trump loyalist, had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid to travel with him across state lines.
These acts could violate federal sex trafficking laws, according to The Times, which quoted three people who were briefed on the matter. No charges were brought against Gaetz, according to the report.
Two of the sources told The Times that the investigation – focusing on events that occurred about two years ago – began towards the end of the Trump presidency and that senior Justice Department officials were briefed on the investigation.
The investigation into Gaetz is part of a larger investigation into a former local Florida official and Gaetz ally Joel Greenberg, who was charged last summer with, among other things, sex trafficking with minors.
In response to the report, MP Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) Called for Gaetz to be removed from the House Justice Committee, which oversees the Justice Department, pending the investigation. However, Gaetz pushed himself back in the Fox interview and implied that he could become the victim of a partisan conspiracy, especially given his image as a downright conservative arsonist.
“I think we are now in an era of our politics, Tucker, where people are smeared to try to take them out of the conversation,” he said.
Axios reported on Tuesday that Gaetz was considering leaving Congress early to take a job at Newsmax, the conservative television broadcaster. Gaetz told the Times that he had no plans to step down from the House of Representatives.
Kelly Hooper contributed to this report.