ORLANDO, Fla. — Federal investigators are exploring whether U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz obstructed justice by attempting to influence a witness in the federal sex trafficking probe targeting him, according to a pair of new reports.
According to Politico, the obstruction element of the case concerns a phone conversation between the witness and an ex-girlfriend of Gaetz, who at one point added the Florida congressman to the call.
Politico’s report, attributed to two unnamed sources, said it was unclear what was said in the call, but noted that the witness had subsequently spoken with prosecutors. The witness was described as having “entered Gaetz’s orbit” through Joel Greenberg, the disgraced former Seminole County tax collector who recently pleaded guilty to six federal charges
A subsequent report by CNN, also attributed to two unnamed people, added that federal investigators have been concerned about “efforts to obstruct the probe” since at least last fall.
Authorities are also aware of Gaetz having discussed with an unnamed associate a plan to talk with Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend about the investigation last October. Prior reports have indicated that the ex is viewed as a potential key witness whose cooperation authorities hope to secure.
Politico reported that the ex-girlfriend might come to an agreement with prosecutors “by the end of the month,” adding that insiders with knowledge of the probe view July as “a prime time for the congressman to be indicted if there’s enough evidence against him.”
Harlan Hill, a spokesperson for Gaetz, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports but fired back at the newly disclosed details of the investigation in a statement to CNN and Politico.
“Congressman Gaetz pursues justice, he doesn’t obstruct it,” the statement said. “After two months, there is still not a single on-record accusation of misconduct, and now the ‘story’ is changing yet again.”
The investigation of Gaetz emerged from the federal probe of Greenberg, which produced 33 charges against the former tax collector before he agreed to cooperate with federal authorities and admit guilt on six counts, including sex trafficking of a child, as part of a plea deal last month.
Reports indicate Gaetz and Greenberg are suspected of having paid for sex with women whom Greenberg recruited online, as well as a 17-year-old girl, who was the victim in Greenberg’s trafficking charge.
Gaetz has denied having ever paid for sex or had sex as an adult with someone underage.