In the final days of the Trump administration, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) told a White House aide that he was in need of a preemptive presidential pardon because he feared an investigation of him for alleged improper actions he took with an underage girl would result in him going to prison.
The Washington Post reports that Gaetz was worried and all but begging for a pardon from Trump:
Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told a former White House aide that he was seeking a preemptive pardon from President Donald Trump regarding an investigation in which he is a target, according to testimony given to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Johnny McEntee, according to people familiar with his testimony, told investigators that Gaetz told him during a brief meeting “that they are launching an investigation into him or that there’s an investigation into him,” without specifying who was investigating Gaetz.
McEntee added that Gaetz told him “he did not do anything wrong but they are trying to make his life hell, and you know, if the president could give him a pardon, that would be great.” Gaetz told McEntee that he had asked White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for a pardon.
Did Gaetz make it clear what he needed the pardon for? McEntee said that was indeed specified.
Asked by investigators if Gaetz’s ask for a pardon was in the context of the Justice Department investigation into whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, McEntee replied, “I think that was the context, yes,” according to people familiar with the testimony who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
Gaetz is suspected of having sex with a 17-year-old Florida girl whom he took across state lines and later paid via online payment apps. A federal investigation into that alleged crime was authorized in the final months of the Trump administration by then-Attorney General William Barr.
For his part, Gaetz has repeatedly denied he did anything wrong, and a spokesperson for the Florida Republican said in a statement:
“Congressman Matt Gaetz discussed pardons for many other people publicly and privately at the end of President Donald Trump’s first term. 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.”
Trump didn’t wind up giving Gaetz a pardon, and the congressman faces life in prison if convicted on charges of sexually trafficking a minor.