Rep. Matt Gaetz has confirmed that he is under federal investigation for "sexual conduct with women"—but he says the allegations "are as searing as they are false." The conservative Florida Republican confirmed the investigation to Axios hours after the New York Times reported that investigators are looking into whether the 38-year-old had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and violated sex-trafficking laws by paying for her to travel with him. Sources told the Times that the Justice Department investigation was opened during the final months of the Trump administration. The sources said the Gaetz investigation was connected to the investigation of Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Florida who was indicted last year on charges including sex trafficking of a child.
"I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward," Gaetz tells the Times. Gaetz, who has not been charged, tells Axios that the allegations are part of "an extortion effort against my family for $25 million." He says there are "people at the Department of Justice who are trying to criminalize my sexual conduct, you know when I was a single guy." He announced his engagement in December. Gaetz says he definitely "provided" for women he dated and paid for flights and hotel rooms, but he is "absolutely confident" none of them were underage. Earlier Tuesday, Axios reported that sources said Gaetz, who was first elected to the House in 2016, was considering leaving Congress before the next election to take a job at Newsmax. (Read more Matt Gaetz stories.)