Gaetz allegedly showed off to other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with, the sources told CNN, including while on the House floor. The sources, including two people directly shown the material, said Gaetz displayed the images of women on his phone and talked about having sex with them. One of the videos showed a naked woman with a hula hoop, according to one source.
“It was a point of pride,” one of the sources said of Gaetz.
There’s no indication these pictures are connected to the DOJ investigation.
Gaetz, 38, who was elected to Congress in 2016, has been at the center of a number of controversies in his four-plus years in Congress. But he’s now embroiled in easily his biggest scandal yet, after the Justice Department began investigating him in the final months of the Trump administration under then-Attorney General William Barr as part of a larger investigation into another Florida politician. Federal investigators are examining whether Gaetz engaged in a relationship with a woman that began when she was 17 years old and whether his involvement with other young women broke federal sex trafficking and prostitution laws, two people briefed on the matter said.
Gaetz has denied the allegations, saying “no part of the allegations against me are true,” and he claimed Tuesday that he was the victim of an extortion plot, which the FBI is separately investigating.
“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. We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals,” Gaetz said in a statement.
Gaetz and a spokesperson for Gaetz did not respond to requests for comment on the images and videos he allegedly showed to lawmakers.
After the DOJ investigation into Gaetz surfaced this week, there were a handful of Republicans in Congress who defended him, speaking out on his behalf, including both Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. But many House Republicans stayed quiet.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday there were “serious implications” involving the DOJ allegations, adding that he would remove Gaetz from the Judiciary Committee if they were proven true.
“I haven’t heard anything from the DOJ or others, but I will deal with it if anything comes to be true” McCarthy said in response to a question from CNN at a town hall event in Iowa.
Gaetz made a name for himself on conservative television soon upon his arrival to Congress in 2017, where he’s often been a thorn in the side of House Republican leadership while aligning himself closely with the Freedom Caucus and Trump during his presidency. Gaetz has been a constant presence on both Newsmax and Fox News — much more than any typical rank-and-file House member — and he turned to Fox soon after the allegations surfaced Tuesday.
At one point during Gaetz’s first term, staff for then-House Speaker Paul Ryan held a short meeting with Gaetz in the Capitol, where they had a discussion with Gaetz about acting professionally while in Congress, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting. One source said the conversation wasn’t tied to a specific incident. Ryan didn’t directly have a conversation with Gaetz.
Gaetz’s spokesperson denied that he was ever reprimanded by Ryan or his staff. “That did not happen, no meeting with the speaker or his staff,” the spokesperson said.
On Capitol Hill, Gaetz has a number of headline-grabbing incidents to his credit, both at the Capitol and on Twitter.
Gaetz was one of the most vocal backers of Trump’s lie after the 2020 election that the election was stolen from him. After 10 Republicans voted to impeach Trump in January, Gaetz personally took up the task of trying to oust the House’s GOP conference chair Liz Cheney, the highest-ranking Republican to support impeachment, traveling to Wyoming to hold a rally against Cheney in her home state.
At the time, Gaetz did a Facebook Live broadcast defending his vote. He said he voted no because he felt the existing Transportation Department staffing should’ve been able to handle the task, and he was sent to Washington to stop the expansion of the federal government.