Rep. Matt Gaetz, who's under federal investigation on suspicion of sex trafficking, told former President Donald Trump's chief of staff that a preemptive pardon in the case "would be great," a witness told a House committee. Johnny McEntee, a White House aide during Trump's term, testified before the panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that Gaetz had told him in a meeting that he had raised the possibility of a pardon with then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, the Washington Post reports. The Florida Republican paraphrased Gaetz as saying, "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," McEntee said.
McEntee told investigators he understood the pardon request to be for the sex trafficking case. He said he couldn't recall whether the conversation took place before or after the attack on the Capitol. Other Trump aides told the committee that Gaetz was one of several GOP members of Congress who had called for Trump to issue a "blanket pardon" for lawmakers involved in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, per the Hill. But the Post report is the first saying that Gaetz wanted a pardon in connection with the sex trafficking investigation. In his deposition, former White House attorney Eric Herschmann said he believed Gaetz's pardon request to be for "any and all things."
The Justice Department's investigation centers around allegations that Gaetz paid for sex, paid for women to travel across state lines to have sex, and had a sexual relationship with a minor—all allegations that Gaetz denies. In response to the Post article, a spokesperson said Gaetz "discussed pardons for many other people publicly and privately at the end of President Donald Trump’s first term." The spokesperson added that 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." (Read more Matt Gaetz stories.)