“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon. It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him," Trump announced in a statement through tweemail Wednesday, a day after the New York Times reported that the lawmaker privately asked the White House for blanket pardons for himself and other unnamed lawmakers.
The Florida congressman is under probe by the Department of Justice for an alleged sexual relationship with a minor and whether he paid women seen on the website Seeking Arrangement for sex, although he has rejected the accusations. Gaetz, when the news of the investigation broke last week, insisted that he doubted the timing of the news was meant to thwart another FBI investigation into an extortion effort against him.
This was Trump's first time wading into the scandal that has engulfed one of his greatest supporters left on Capitol Hill.
Don Gaetz, the congressman’s father who beforehand worked as the state Senate president, sent a text message to his son that he got on March 16 from former Air Force intelligence officer Bob Kent, who was offering a plan that could help the younger Gaetz’s “future legal and political problems go away.”
A day later, Kent and convicted felon Stephen Alford presented Don Gaetz with a three-page, typed document named "Project Homecoming" describing the plan requesting $25 million.
The money, according to the document, would be applied to fund a rescue operation for ex-FBI agent-turned-spy Robert Levinson from Iran and, in return, Kent would "strongly advocate that President Biden issue a Presidential Pardon, or instruct the Department of Justice to terminate any and all investigations involving Congressman Gaetz."
Kent doubted that the communications were created as a threat in an interview with CNN on Monday.
Gaetz, in an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, repeated his allegations of innocence and suggested he could be a target of the deep state.
"Folks won’t be surprised that bizarre claims are being made about me shortly after I decided to take on the most powerful institutions in the Beltway: the establishment; the FBI; the Biden Justice Department; the Cheney political dynasty; even the Justice Department under Trump," he addressed. "Yes, just like the mafia, the D.C. swamp protects its 'made men.' Since I’m taking my turn under the gun, let me address the allegations against me directly. First, I have never, ever paid for sex. And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old."