Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz is already facing a federal investigation into sexual abuse of a minor, now the other shoe has fallen as Gaetz is now reportedly under investigation for obstruction of the investigation itself through witness tampering.
Federal prosecutors are examining whether Rep. Matt Gaetz obstructed justice during a phone call he had with a witness in the sex-crimes investigation of the Florida congressman, according to two sources familiar with the case.
The witness in question was one of a handful of women who entered Gaetz’s orbit via his one-time “wingman,” former Seminole County, Fla., tax collector Joel Greenberg, who pleaded guilty last month to a host of crimes, including sex-trafficking a 17-year-old in 2017.
The obstruction inquiry stems from a phone call the witness had with Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend. At some point during the conversation, the ex-girlfriend patched Gaetz into the call, sources said. While it’s unknown exactly what was said, the discussion on that call is central to whether prosecutors can charge Gaetz with obstructing justice, which makes it illegal to suggest that a witness in a criminal case lie or give misleading testimony.
The witness later spoke with prosecutors, the sources said.
Gaetz has denied all wrongdoing, including obstructing justice or having sex with the trafficked 17-year-old, who was a friend of both Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend and the witness prosecutors interviewed.
The obstruction probe is the latest development in the ongoing federal investigation into Gaetz, a top ally of former President Donald Trump who has come under increasing scrutiny due to his relationship with Greenberg — now a cooperating witness. The obstruction inquiry signals how wide a net federal prosecutors are casting to possibly ensnare the congressman.
A spokesman for Gaetz provided a written statement that stated the congressman — who is an attorney — broke no laws and characterized the federal government’s investigation as a politically motivated fishing expedition.
“Congressman Gaetz pursues justice, he doesn’t obstruct it,” the statement said. “The anonymous allegations have thus far amounted to lies, wrapped in leaks, rooted in an extortion plot by a former DOJ official. After two months, there is still not a single on-record accusation of misconduct, and now the 'story' is changing yet again.”
Gaetz’s statement also said his lawyers are simultaneously investigating an alleged shakedown scheme that was purportedly organized by a former federal prosecutor in reaction to the case.
Brian Tannebaum, a veteran federal defense attorney briefed by POLITICO on the investigation, said that obstruction of justice is “widely used by prosecutors in various forms” and can even ensnare witnesses who lie on the stand at trial. He said that, if authorities recorded the call involving Gaetz, prosecutors will listen for signs that he’s trying to get the woman to “get her story straight” by shading the truth.
“If there’s any indication he was trying to influence her testimony, that can be obstruction,” Tannebaum said. “If it’s determined that what he said obstructed the investigation — ‘did what he tell you have any influence on your testimony before the grand jury?’ — it can be real problem.”
Gaetz had better hope his lawyers are better at actual criminal law then they are press statements, because the guy is facing multiple witnesses cooperating with the feds, and odds are an indictment is coming soon. And this time, there's no Trump to save him.