Several weeks after an explosive New York Times report into a Justice Department investigation examing whether Rep. Matt Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that potentially broke sex trafficking laws, the scandals surrounding the Florida Republican congressman continue to mount.
CNN reports that the federal probe is also looking into a 2018 trip to the Bahamas Gaetz took with medical marijuana entrepreneur Jason Pirozzolo, during which Gaetz may have accepted gifts, including paid escorts, in exchange for political support for the medical marijuana industry. If true, that would appear to be a pretty big violation of public corruption rules. This comes after Politico reported on the same trip last week, and the critical role it plays in the Justice Department’s probe:
Also among those on the trip: the former minor who is key to the investigation, whose presence on the trip was previously unreported. According to one of the women in the group who spoke on condition of anonymity, everyone on the trip was over the age of 18—including the woman in question, who had turned 18 years old months before the trip, she said…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 US Customs briefly stopped and questioned him, according to sources familiar with the trip, including a woman on the flight.
In his two terms, Gaetz has been one of a few Republicans to express support for marijuana legalization, arguing that the GOP was in danger of “overwhelmingly losing with the American people” over its stubborn opposition to popular reform bills aimed at decriminalizing weed. During a career in which he has achieved very little legislative success for someone with such a high profile, Gaetz also sponsored a 2018 bill called the Medical Cannabis Research Act to create new registration processes for medical weed manufacturers.
Throughout the probes, Gaetz has repeatedly denied any criminal wrongdoing, including in his response to CNN’s report. He has also previously denied having sex with an underage girl—though while speaking to Tucker Carlson in a bizarre interview last month, Gaetz notably did refer to a 17-year-old as a “woman”—and ever paying for sex.