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Report: Ex-Trump aide says Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz sought pardon related to sex trafficking inquiry

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Report: Ex-Trump aide says Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz sought pardon related to sex trafficking inquiry

A former White House aide told the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that Rep. Matt Gaetz sought a preemptive pardon for himself regarding a Justice Department sex-trafficking investigation, The Washington Post reported.

The Post, citing unnamed sources familiar with the testimony, reported on Saturday that Johnny McEntee testified to the committee behind closed doors that Gaetz told him during a brief meeting that he was seeking a pardon related to the investigation. 

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The report was the first to directly tie Gaetz seeking a pardon to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travel across state lines. 

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According to The Post, McEntee could not remember if the conversation happened before or after Jan. 6, 2021, but Gaetz told McEntee that “he did not do anything wrong but they are trying to make his life hell, and you know, if the president could give him a pardon, that would be great.”

McEntee was asked if the request was in the context of the DOJ investigation into whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws and McEntee replied, “I think that was the context, yes.”

Gaetz reportedly made the request to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

McEntee and Meadows did not respond to The Post’s request for comment. 

Other White House officials have also told the Jan. 6 committee that Gaetz was seeking a pardon in the closing days of Trump’s administration.

Former White House senior adviser Eric Herschmann and former Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson both told the committee that Gaetz was among a group of Republican lawmakers seeking pardons from the Trump administration.

Gaetz and other lawmakers were not given pardons.

Gaetz has repeatedly and vehemently denied the allegations related to the sex-trafficking investigation and has not been charged.

A Gaetz spokesperson pushed back against the testimony of other former Trump administration officials, citing a public statement from former President Donald Trump that Gaetz never directly asked him for a pardon.

“Congressman Matt Gaetz discussed pardons for many other people publicly and privately at the end of President Donald Trump’s first term,” a Gaetz spokesperson wrote in an email to The Washington Post. “As for himself, President Trump addressed this malicious rumor more than a year ago stating, ‘Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon.’ Rep. Gaetz continues to stand by President Trump’s statement.”

Jim Little can be reached at jwlittle@pnj.com and 850-208-9827.

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Report: Ex-Trump aide says Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz sought pardon related to sex trafficking inquiry