Defiant Matt Gaetz dismissed the sex trafficking allegations he faces as ‘smears’ and ‘wild conspiracy theories’ tonight as he told a raucous crowd of conservative women at a BBQ event in Miami: ‘I’m built for the battle and I’m not going anywhere.’
The firebrand GOP congressman has been under increasing pressure to relinquish his seat since news broke that he was under federal investigation for allegedly trafficking and having sex with an underage girl.
The House Ethics Committee announced Friday that it was opening an investigation into accusations that Gaetz, 38, engaged in ‘sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use’, shared lewd images on the House floor and used campaign funds for personal use.
But the Trump loyalist showed no signs of buckling when he appeared hours later at the ‘BBQ, Boots & Bluegrass’ event at the former president’s Doral golf club and resort in Miami, his first public engagement since the scandal broke.
‘Let me assure you, I have not yet begun to fight – for the country I love and the nation that I know benefits from America first principles. I’m built for the battle and I’m not going anywhere,’ he told members of Pro-Trump group, Women for America First.
‘The smears against me range from distortions of my personal life to wild, and I mean wild, conspiracy theories. I won’t be intimidated by a lying media and I won’t be extorted by a former DOJ official and the crooks he is working with. The truth will prevail.’
Gaetz was joined by fiancée Ginger Luckey, 26, whom he proposed to last December.
Defiant Matt Gaetz dismissed the sex trafficking allegations he faces as ‘smears’ and ‘wild conspiracy theories’ at a BBQ event in Miami
Gaetz was joined by fiancée Ginger Luckey, 26, whom he proposed to last December
She smiled and applauded as he told attendees: ‘Thank you to my amazing fiancée Ginger. I love you with all my heart and I can assure you the best is yet to come.’
Gaetz may have been all smiles as he turned up for the four-day summit, flanked by security and wearing blue jeans, a grey blazer and a red tie.
However he is facing rapidly-escalating problems stemming from his friendship with fellow Floridian Joel Greenberg, 36, a former tax collector for Seminole County
Greenberg was arrest in June on a litany of charges, including allegations that he stalked a political opponent, illegally used a state database to create fake IDs and sex-trafficked a minor.
As part of their wider probe federal investigators are reportedly examining whether Greenberg recruited women for Gaetz on ‘sugar daddy’ websites and whether the congressman ‘paid’ them for sex with cash, fine dining or gifts.
The Daily Beast reported this week that investigators have honed in on allegedly suspicious $900 payment Gaetz sent to Greenberg via the cash-transfer app Venmo in May 2018.
Early the next morning Greenberg is said to have transferred $900 in total to three different women, one of whom is now reportedly working as a porn actress. The transfers were labeled as ‘tuition’ and ‘school’ and, while the three women were over the age of consent, one was only 18, according to the report.
Greenberg is in jail on a 33-count federal indictment, including sex trafficking crimes involving a 17-year-old. And, in an ominous sign for Gaetz, said to be cooperating with prosecutors on a plea deal.
‘I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,’ his attorney, Fritz Scheller, told reporters at a federal court Thursday in Orlando.
Gaetz is also being investigated over a trip he allegedly took to the Bahamas with Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and cannabis businessman, and four escorts, according to CBS.
Feds are trying determine if Pirozzolo trafficked the women across state lines and international borders to have sex with his staunchly Pro-Trump congressman pal, the network said.
Further allegations have surfaced in the past couple weeks relating to Gaetz’ alleged sleazy conduct on the floor of the U.S. House, where he has represented Florida’s 4th district since 2016.
According to CNN he showed fellow lawmakers naked pictures of women he claimed to have bedded and created a game where players scored points for sleeping with fellow politicians or their staffers.
Gaetz, a brash, outspoken member of the Pro-Trump right and a regular fixture on conservative media, has vehemently denied being involved in sex trafficking and says he has never paid for sex.
He has also claimed he is the victim of an elaborate extortion attempt, saying he informed the FBI that two men offered to make his legal problems ‘go away’ if he handed them $25 million.
‘Since I’m taking my turn under the gun, let me address the allegations against me directly,’ he wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner last Monday.
‘First, I have never, ever paid for sex. And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old.’
On Thursday his office issued a press release signed by the ‘women of the office of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz’ – who said they felt ‘morally obligated’ to speak out. ‘At no time has any one of us experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect,’ the release said, without naming any of its authors.
Democrats want Gaetz, who represents much of the Florida Panhandle, stripped of his place on the House Committee that oversees the Justice Department.
It was further announced Friday afternoon that he was being investigated by the House Ethics Committee. ‘
The committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Matt Gaetz may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct,’ the committee said in a statement.
Former New York City Democrat Charlie Rangel was the last congressman censured by the committee back in 2010 for financial and fundraising misconduct.
The top Republican in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, last week acknowledged the allegations were ‘serious’ but said he wanted to wait for the facts before taking action.
Prominent Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger broke rank Thursday night, however, tweeting ‘Matt Gaetz needs to resign’ and linking to the Daily Beast article about the mysterious $900 transaction.
That did not stop Women For America tapping him to be a keynote speaker as their four day Save America Summit, which began Thursday. T
he same group helped organize the ‘March for Trump’ rally in Washington, D.C. that took place hours before the January 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol building. ‘Rep Matt Gaetz has been a fearless leader in DC.
Few members of Congress have been more willing than Matt to stand up & fight on behalf of President Trump & his America First Agenda,’ the group tweeted. ‘We are honored to have @RepMattGaetz speak at the #SaveAmericaSummit!’
Other speakers included Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who was stripped of her committee assignments by the House Democratic majority for past social media postings in support of QAnon conspiracy theories.
The summit, which also featured charity golf games, cocktail receptions and live entertainment, was promoted as pushing back against ‘the radical agenda being pushed, not only from the White House but in Congress.’
‘We are not going to sit back and let the Left define who we are and what we stand for in 2021,’ the group’s website states. ‘Our nation is at a tipping point. If we want to SAVE AMERICA and our freedom, it’s time to fight back. It’s time to stop looking in our rearview mirror and start looking forward.’
Gaetz met Luckey at a Trump fundraiser in March 2020 at the former President’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach.
He proposed to the food analyst from Santa Barbara, California last December.
‘It didn’t come as a surprise, I had sort of seen it coming,’ she told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview.
Luckey is the younger sister of Palmer Luckey, who became a multi-millionaire overnight in 2014 when he sold his virtual reality company Oculus VR to Facebook for $2 billion.
She said of her upcoming wedding: ‘It’ll be between now and 2024. We are flexible and have no timespan yet. Matt wants an Elvis impersonator to preside. I want multiple venues, so we’ll see.’