Strange company

Matt Gaetz says they were just good friends.

The Florida politician, a close ally of Donald Trump, claimed during the Tuesday night interview that he was the victim of an extortion plot by a former justice department official, and questioned the motivation behind Tuesday’s original reporting by the New York Times.

Gee, yes, what motivation could a newspaper have for reporting such a thing?

Gaetz, 38, claimed his lawyers had been informed that he was the subject of an FBI inquiry “regarding sexual conduct with women” and that the official was attempting to extort $25m from his family “in exchange for a commitment that he could make this investigation go away”.

Uh huh. Sure.

According to the New York Times, Gaetz was under investigation by the justice department to determine whether he violated federal sex trafficking laws and had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, and whether he paid her to travel with him.

The investigation was launched in the final months of the Trump administration under attorney general William Barr, the newspaper said, and was part of a broader investigation into a Republican party official and political ally in Florida, Joel Greenberg, indicted last summer on charges of sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, including at least one underage girl.

So it’s all kind of Jeffrey Epstein without Jeffrey Epstein. Was Andy Windsor there too?

Adding to the intrigue was a story reported by Axios earlier on Tuesday, just hours before the Times published its allegations, that Gaetz told associates he was considering resigning his seat in Congress to take a job with the rightwing media outlet Newsmax.

Totally normal thing to do.

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