Florida Representative Matt Gaetz is under investigation by the Justice Department regarding suspicion that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her travel, the New York Times reports.
The scope of the investigation is to ascertain whether Gaetz broke federal laws regarding sex trafficking which make it illegal to compel an individual under 18 to cross state lines for sex in exchange for something of value.
According to the Times, the girl Mr. Gaetz is suspected to have paid for the travel of and had a relationship with was 17 at the time of their relationship, about two years ago.
Of note, the investigation was opened under Attorney General William P. Barr during the waning months of the Trump presidency.
Gaetz has denied the claims made by the investigation and states that the revelations are part of a smear campaign.
“Over the past several weeks, my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name,” Gaetz said on Twitter.
Individuals told the Times that Gaetz came into the view of the investigation as part of another investigation into one of his political allies, Joel Greenberg. Greenberg is a former local official from Florida who is currently facing trial for numerous charges including sex trafficking of a child.
Gaetz continued on Twitter, stating, “No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation.”
He told the Times, “It is verifiably false that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman.”
“I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations,” Gaetz closed.