US

Gaetz central figure in DOJ election fraud probe drama last year

‘If I ever hear of you talking to Gaetz again, I am going to f***ing fire your ass’: What AG Bill Barr said to a US attorney who shared plans for a Florida election fraud probe with GOP rep

  • Rep. Matt Gaetz was a central figure in Justice Department drama last year
  • Politico reported that he told President Donald Trump about a plan that would open the door for a state-wide voter fraud investigation in Florida 
  • Attorney General Bill Barr threatened U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe after Keefe told Gaetz about a legal theory that would green-light such a probe 
  • ‘If I ever hear of you talking to Gaetz or any other congressman again about business before the department, I am going to f***ing fire your ass,’ Barr said 
  • Keefe was testing out a legal theory that U.S. attorneys in districts with state capitals could probe voter fraud throughout entire states 
  • That’s because presidential electors are certified in state capitals
  • As Trump feared the uptick in mail-in ballots last year, Gaetz told the president about Keefe’s theory and Trump wanted Barr to pursue it 
  • That led to Barr telling off Keefe with Gaetz believing the DOJ ‘wanted the U.S. attorneys to be very passive when it came to election integrity’

Rep. Matt Gaetz was a central figure in Justice Department drama last year, when he told President Donald Trump about a plan that would open the door for a state-wide voter fraud investigation in his home state of Florida.  

Politico reported Tuesday that Attorney General Bill Barr threatened U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe after Keefe told Gaetz about a legal theory that would green-light such a probe – and then Gaetz repeated it to Trump. 

‘If I ever hear of you talking to Gaetz or any other congressman again about business before the department, I am going to f***ing fire your ass,’ Barr reportedly told Keefe. 

Rep. Matt Gaetz was a central figure in Justice Department drama last year, when he told President Donald Trump about a plan that would open the door for a state-wide voter fraud investigation in his home state of Florida 

Attorney General Bill Barr

U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe

Attorney General Bill Barr (left) told U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe (right), ‘If I ever hear of you talking to Gaetz of any other congressman again about business before the department, I am going to f***ing fire your ass’ after Keefe’s legal theory got passed to Trump through Gaetz 

President Donald Trump heard about Keefe's legal theory through Gaetz and told White House  counsel Pat Cipollone to tell Barr that the president believed Keefe's legal theory should be explored

President Donald Trump heard about Keefe’s legal theory through Gaetz and told White House  counsel Pat Cipollone to tell Barr that the president believed Keefe’s legal theory should be explored

Keefe, who was nominated by Trump as the U.S. attorney for Florida’s northern district in August 2018, was looking into ways to conduct a voter fraud investigation as now President Joe Biden was wrapping up winning the Democratic nomination last spring. 

He needed the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section to sign off on the probe. 

Lawyers there believed the statewide investigation was too broad, Politico wrote. 

Keefe then complained to Gaetz, a top ally of the former president, about the resistance he was dealing with from DOJ’s headquarters. 

‘Keefe did not share with me any details of any investigative work, nor would he. We were having a broad discussion about legal doctrine related to jurisdiction and venue,’ Gaetz told Politico in an interview. 

Gaetz explained that Keefe was looking into whether U.S. attorneys who have jurisdiction over state capitals, could investigate voter fraud outside their districts. 

Keefe’s district included Florida’s capital, Tallahassee. 

Gaetz explained that Keefe believed that since presidential electors are certified in state capitals, any harm related to a fraudulent certification would be caused there – and thus U.S. attorneys working in those districts could investigate those crimes.

‘I got the sense from Keefe that the DOJ wanted the U.S. attorneys to be very passive when it came to election integrity,’ the Florida Republican told Politico. 

After the conversation between Gaetz and Keefe, Gaetz met with Trump in the Oval Office, where the then-president was telling the Florida congressman his concerns about mail-in voting. 

Across the country, state officials were increasing access to mail-in voting – with GOP officials in some states on board as well – in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Upon hearing Trump’s concerns, Gaetz told the president Keefe’s legal theory. 

‘I said to him that an appreciation for the Keefe position on venue would give good U.S. attorneys in every capital city the necessary jurisdiction to root out fraud,’ Gaetz told Politico. ‘I also shared with President Trump that Keefe had faced substantial resistance from the Department of Justice.’  

Gaetz said Trump told White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who was in the Oval with them, to tell Barr that the president believed Keefe’s legal theory should be explored.   

Barr wasn’t happy. 

Politico reported that Barr cussed Keefe out. 

Gaetz said he was unaware of that conversation. 

‘But I did get a message from Keefe subsequent to my meeting in the Oval wherein Keefe said he was not going to be able to discuss these matters with me, and I got the sense that the politics of the Department of Justice were such that they did not want U.S. attorneys looking for election fraud in this type of very proactive way,’ Gaetz said.    

Gaetz now finds himself potentially in hot water with the Justice Department – completely unrelated to last year’s saga with Keefe and Barr – as investigators are looking into whether the Florida congressman had a sexual relationshp with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travel, potentially violating sex trafficking laws. 

Keefe announced he was stepping down from his role in February, as the Biden administration asked him to resign as part of the presidential transition. 

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