Matt Gaetz Probes: Latest News, Timeline, Who's Who

 

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U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican representing the Panhandle region of Florida, has been a fervant supporter of Donald Trump, who reportedly refused Gaetz's request for an open-ended pardon to cover unspecified matters and other associates, according to news reports.

The Justice Integrity Project is publishing a compilation of news clips about the reported federal probe of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), right, and several of his associates, matt gaetz o Customincluding Joel Greenberg, a former Florida county tax collector facing 33 felony charges related to claims of sex trafficking, including of a 17-year-old. This compilation, arranged in reverse chronological order, is updated with new materials as they arise.

Several of the stories pertain not directly to Gaetz, but to the larger Capitol riot and pro-Trump insurrection on claims of vote theft that he advanced. The allegations of widespread vote theft that could have affected the 2020 elections have been debunked but led to the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C., and a number of follow up investigations.

This compilation focuses primarily on stories and columns directly mentioning Gaetz and his associates, including former President Trump, but includes also some material also pertaining to major stories about election integrity and voter suppression.

The materials contain some repetition because it is intended a research guide, arranged in reverse chronological order, and not as an article.

Clips Since New York Times revelations on April 1, 2021:

May 9chris doworth left matt gaetz joel greenberg resized facebook

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL, at center, former Florida State Rep. Chris Dorworth, left, then of the Ballard Partners lobbying firm, and former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, at right, posed for the photograph above outside the White House in June of 2019.

Tampa Bay Times, Matt Gaetz helped set off Florida’s marijuana ‘green rush.’ Some of his friends, allies scored big, Tribune News Service, May 9, 2021. A sprawling federal investigation has also now expanded to examine whether Gaetz took gifts in exchange for political favors tied to medical marijuana policy, according to recent reports by CNN and The Associated Press.

Less than 24 hours before the Florida Legislature passed the state’s first medical marijuana law in May 2014, Matt Gaetz and other members of the state House of Representatives rewrote the bill to limit who would be able to get in on the ground floor of what has since become a billion-dollar business.

A number of Gaetz’s friends and allies managed to squeeze through that narrow door. Among them:

— The brother of Gaetz’s friend and fellow state Rep. Halsey Beshears, who co-founded one of Florida’s first licensed marijuana companies and amassed a fortune currently valued at about $600 million — and became a major Republican Party donor.

— A Panhandle developer and client of Gaetz’s law firm who invested in another of the state’s first marijuana licensees and who, according to financial and court records, roughly tripled his money in two years.

— Ballard Partners, a prominent Tallahassee lobbying firm, which until recently employed former state Rep. Chris Dorworth, whom Gaetz once described as his legislative “mentor.” The firm was given investment interests in at least three companies that eventually won marijuana licenses, and is now earning $160,000 a year in lobbying fees from a fourth.

— Another of Gaetz’s friends, Orlando hand doctor Jason Pirozzolo, who helped craft that 2014 legislation and then started several marijuana businesses, including a consulting firm that worked with companies applying for marijuana licenses and a professional association that sells sponsorships to marijuana vendors.

Gaetz also worked with some of these same friends in other arenas. In 2019, for instance, Gaetz, Beshears, Dorworth and Pirozzolo were all involved in efforts to replace key leaders at the agency that runs Orlando International Airport, an obscure-but-important entity that spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on contractors and vendors.

All four have also recently been rocked by a federal investigation that emerged from a probe into disgraced former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg.

Gaetz, who is now a member of Congress, is under investigation for potential sex trafficking violations linked to a September 2018 trip to the Bahamas with several young women and with Beshears and Pirozzolo, according to reports by CBS News and Politico.

Investigators have also learned of a conversation between Dorworth and Gaetz about recruiting a third-party candidate to help their friend Jason Brodeur win a state Senate election last fall, according to The New York Times. A similar alleged scheme in a South Florida race has led to charges against a former state lawmaker.

The sprawling federal investigation that emerged from the Greenberg probe has also now expanded to examine whether Gaetz took gifts in exchange for political favors tied to medical marijuana policy, according to recent reports by CNN and The Associated Press.

May 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Reps. Greene, Gaetz push Trump’s grievances, ‘America First’ message at Florida rally, Amy B Wang, May 8, 2021 (print ed.). Two Republican members of Congress who have been among the most outspoken supporters of former president Donald Trump sought to carry the torch for his “America First” movement, holding a rally in central Florida on Friday night where they mocked Democrats — and some fellow Republicans — and vowed that Trump’s influence on the GOP is here to stay.

“ ‘America First’ isn’t going away. We’re going on tour!” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) declared, promising the event would be the first of similar rallies across the country. He teased appearances by Trump at those future events, describing the former president as the “undisputed leader” of the Republican Party.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) co-headlined the rally at the Villages, a retirement community northwest of Orlando for adults 55 and older where Trump enjoyed strong support and where heated golf cart parades and protests have periodically broken out.

HuffPost, Matt Gaetz Seems To Makes Light Of Sex Allegations At ‘America First' Rally, Lee Moran, May 8, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) appeared to reference the sex allegations leveled against him during a rally with QAnon conspiracy theory-endorsing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in Florida on Friday.

The firebrand Republicans — and staunch supporters of ex-President Donald Trump ― visited The Villages retirement community north of Orlando for the first stop of their “America First Tour.”

“CNN is just the worst,” Gaetz told attendees.

“So, today is my birthday. And I already know how CNN’s gonna report it. ‘Matt Gaetz has wild party surrounded by beautiful women in The Villages.’ So just get ready for it,” he added.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) appeared to reference the sex allegations leveled against him during a rally with QAnon conspiracy theory-endorsing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in Florida on Friday.

Gaetz is under federal investigation over claims he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him, potentially violating sex trafficking laws. The Florida Republican has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.

“We have a right to confront our accusers in this country. How about that?” Gaetz told the crowd. “There can be no due process here if the only process due to conservatives is to see leaks embroidered onto lies, then just endlessly repeated by the ‘America Last’ media.”

May 7

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Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary and Opinion: Qanon and pedophilia -- Hold your cards, we have a Bingo! Wayne Madsen, left, May 7, 2021. U.S. Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMarjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA) are kicking off their "America First" national tour at the Brownwood Hotel and Spa in The Villages, a central Florida retirement community that is over 70 percent Republican.

The pairing of Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for being involved in an Orlando-based sex trafficking ring involving minors, and Taylor-Greene, a Qanon advocate who believes that leading Democrats are involved in child sex trafficking operations that use pizza restaurants as fronts, points to the dirty secret that it is the far-right and Qanon that are involved in pedophilia and child sexual exploitation.

It does not take the political marriage of Gaetz, who is suspected of committing other bizarre sexual crimes, and Taylor-Greene, who subscribes to the Qanon "Pizzagate" nonsense, to shine the light on the fact that it is Qanon and their far-right allies who are involved in international satanic pedophilia activities.

May 1

Daily Beast, Commentary: Guys Like Gaetz ‘Don’t Think They’re Paying for Sex,’Prostitution, sugaring, or being a trophy wife may be a matter of degree, Jessie Sage, Updated May 1, 2021.
Likewise with paying for time, paying for attention, paying for fantasy fulfillment, or paying for sex.

daily beast logoA lot of men like to think that they’re paying for something else, but women who have done the work say there’s no question that sex is part of the package—along with emotional labor.

While Matt Gaetz denies purchasing sex, he admits to having paid for hotel rooms and flights for lovers: “I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner.”

His scandal has been free advertising for the sugar daddy site Seeking Arrangements, which claims to match beautiful young women (sugar babies) and successful older men (sugar daddies) in “mutually beneficial relationships.”

While the direct exchange of sex for money (i.e., prostitution) is against the site’s terms of service, Seeking Arrangements doesn’t shy away from asserting on its front page that the benefit for sugar babies is being pampered.

“Indulge in shopping sprees, expensive dinners, and exotic travel vacations,” the site promises. You can guess what the benefit is for the daddies, including Gaetz, who is alleged to have used Apple Pay and Cash App to pay multiple women from the site for sex—and also a 17-year-old girl—with payments funneled through his close associate Joel Greenberg, who the Beast reported this week drafted a confession letter, while trying to purchase a presidential pardon from Roger Stone, admitting to those payments he made for himself and his friend Matt.

April 29

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

Daily Beast, Bombshell Note: Gaetz Paid for Sex With Minor, Wingman Says, Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger, April 29, 2021. The Daily Beast has obtained a confession letter that Joel Greenberg wrote after asking Roger Stone to help him obtain a pardon.

A confession letter written by Joel Greenberg in the final months of the Trump presidency claims that he and close associate Rep. Matt Gaetz paid for sex with multiple daily beast logowomen—as well as a girl who was 17 at the time.

“On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,” Greenberg wrote in reference to the 17-year-old. “From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18. I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman.”

The letter, which The Daily Beast recently obtained, was written after Greenberg asked Roger Stone to help him secure a pardon from then-President Donald Trump.

FBI logoIn late 2020, Greenberg was out of jail and in communication with Stone. A series of private messages between the two—also recently obtained by The Daily Beast—shows a number of exchanges between Greenberg and Stone conducted over the encrypted messaging app Signal, with communications set to disappear. However, Greenberg appears to have taken screenshots of a number of their conversations.

“If I get you $250k in Bitcoin would that help or is this not a financial matter,” Greenberg wrote to Stone.

“I understand all of this and have taken it into consideration,” Stone replied. “I will know more in the next 24 hours I cannot push too hard because of the nonsense surrounding pardons.”

“I hope you are prepared to wire me $250,000 because I am feeling confident,” Stone wrote to Greenberg on Jan. 13.

In a text message to The Daily Beast, Stone said that Greenberg had tried to hire him to assist with a pardon but he denied asking for or receiving payment or interceding on his behalf. He did, however, confirm he had Greenberg prepare “a document explaining his prosecution.”

They know he paid me to pay the girls and that he and I both had sex with the girl who was underage.

— Message from Joel Greenberg to Roger Stone

In the private text messages, Greenberg described his activities with Gaetz, repeatedly referring to the congressman by his initials, “MG,” or as “Matt.”

“My lawyers that I fired, know the whole story about MG’s involvement,” Greenberg wrote to Stone on Dec. 21. “They know he paid me to pay the girls and that he and I both had sex with the girl who was underage.”

As part of the effort to obtain a pardon, Greenberg wrote multiple drafts of his confession letter. The Daily Beast obtained two typed versions and an earlier handwritten one. Certified forensic document examiner and handwriting expert Wendy Carlson compared the letter to writing samples obtained through two public records requests. She said it was her professional expert opinion that the person who authored a 2019 financial disclosure for Joel Greenberg, as well as Greenberg’s 2020 board of elections form, was the same as the author of the letter.

“The person who authored the forms has been identified as the person who authored the letter,” Carlson said.

In those letters, Greenberg detailed his relationship with Gaetz. He confessed to paying young women for sex. And he claimed that he, Gaetz, and others had sex with a minor they believed to be 19 at the time. Greenberg said he learned she was underage on Sept. 4, 2017 from “an anonymous tip” and quickly contacted Gaetz.

“Immediately I called the congressman and warned him to stay clear of this person and informed him she was underage,” Greenberg wrote. “He was equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation.”

Justice Department log circularGreenberg continued in the handwritten draft that he “confronted” the then-17-year-old and explained to her “how serious of a situation this was, how many people she put in danger.”

“She apologized and recognized that by lying about her age, she endangered many people,” he continued. “There was no further contact with this individual until after her 18th birthday.”

But after she reached the age of legal consent in Florida, Greenberg reestablished contact. As The Daily Beast previously reported, about five months after her 18th birthday, Gaetz sent Greenberg $900 in two Venmo transactions—one titled “Test” and the other titled “hit up ___.” The blank, however, was a nickname for this girl, and Greenberg paid her and two other women a total of $900 about six hours later.

In his confession letter, Greenberg also admitted he facilitated Gaetz’s interaction with college students—and paid them on his behalf.

“All of the girls were in college or post college and it was not uncommon for either myself or the Congressman to help anyone [sic] of these girls financially, whether it was a car payment, a flight home to see their family or something as simple as helping pay a speeding ticket,” Greenberg wrote.

A partial record of Greenberg’s Venmo and Cash App transactions suggests that payments were usually for a lot more than “gas money.” The Daily Beast identified more than 150 Venmo payments from Greenberg to women, as well as more than 70 additional payments on the Cash App, that were generally between $300 and $500—though some exceeded $1,000. The Daily Beast also talked to 12 of the more than 40 different women who received money, and they all said they understood Greenberg was paying them at least in part for sex.

Greenberg, a disgraced local politician in Florida, currently faces a sweeping 33-count indictment that ranges from stalking to sex trafficking. In March, The New York Times revealed that the initial investigation into the Seminole County tax official expanded as agents looked into his role in arranging paid sexual encounters for his friend, Matt Gaetz.

Federal prosecutors have not criminally charged Gaetz—or even publicly confirmed the expansion of their probe. While Gaetz acknowledges the existence of the investigation, he denies having sex with an underage teen. But at some point, Greenberg began to cooperate with investigators, a development his lawyer has suggested poses a serious problem for Gaetz.

That defense lawyer, Fritz Scheller, declined to comment on this story, citing attorney-client privilege.

Gaetz’s office did not respond. However, Logan Circle Group, an outside public relations firm Gaetz has hired, sent the following statement:

“Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex nor has he had sex with a 17 year old as an adult. We are now one month after your outlet and others first reported such lies, and no one has gone on record to directly accuse him of either. Politico, however, has reported Mr. Greenberg threatening to make false accusations against others, which seems noteworthy for your story and in fact sounds like the entirety of your story. Congressman Gaetz has had no role in advocating for or against a pardon for Greenberg and doubts such a pardon was ever even considered.”

The Politico article does not say Greenberg was threatening to make false accusations against others, but does say that an associate claimed Greenberg had warned friends that “everyone is going to need a lawyer.”

In the final months of the Trump presidency, Greenberg and Stone exchanged several texts about a pardon over the encrypted messaging app Signal. While images show that the pair frequently set messages to automatically delete, Greenberg regularly took screenshots of their communications.

Stone, who received a presidential commutation in July but at the time had not yet been pardoned, communicated with Greenberg for months about his desire for a pardon.

The messages show that in November, the pair discussed putting together a “document,” which later took the form of a confession letter and background missive about all the ways in which Greenberg had been loyal to Trump. In their early conversations, Greenberg told Stone that the letter was “about 8-10 pages” and asked if it should be shortened.

“No,” Stone replied, “use as much space as you need to tell the story fully but be certain to include your leader ship [sic] for Trump prominently.”

Greenberg almost immediately responded that he had “killed” himself for Trump. “And I’ve killed my self [sic] for Matt,” he said. 

April 26 

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U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, poses with his "adopted son" Nestor Galban, right, and Maisbel, Mendez, identified as Nestor's sister (Instagram photo). 

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigation: Increasing calls for Matt Gaetz to submit to Nestor paternity test, Wayne Madsen, left, April 26, 2021.There are increasing calls from quarters in Niceville, Florida -- the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallhometown of First District U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) -- for the scandal-plagued congressman to submit to a paternity test.

Gaetz's relationship with 19-year old Nestor Galban has been murky, at best.

More is known about Nestor's background from Gaetz's tweets than from any official documentation. On September 30, 2020, Gaetz tweeted, "Today is the happiest day of my life, and we’ve come a long way since this 2012 photo. My son Nestor is America’s newest Citizen! Congratulations Nestor. You will make one Great American. So proud of you!!!"

The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Gaetz with then-12-year old Nestor. No U.S. citizenship papers were disclosed by Gaetz proving that Nestor was granted U.S. citizenship in 2020. Gaetz claims that he is not actually a blood relative of Nestor, but that he unofficially adopted Nestor at the age of 12 when Nestor's Cuban mother died of cancer in Cuba. Gaetz revealed that he had been dating Nestor's sister, Maisbel Mendez, now 33, before he "adopted" Nestor.

Gaetz was dressed as Santa Claus in a photo taken with then-13-year odd Nestor.  During Nestor's teen years, Gaetz was careful to only refer to Nestor as a "local student" and his "helper." Gaetz did not refrain from having his photo taken with Nestor during the time period when the boy was only referred to as Gaetz's "helper." Curiously, Gaetz omitted Maisbel from a tweeted photo of him and Nestor. 

Private investigators in Niceville, Tallahassee, and Washington, DC are aggressively pursuing leads that suggest that Gaetz is actually Nestor's biological father.

So why would Gaetz resist admitting that Nestor is his son? By making such a disclosure, Gaetz would also be admitting that at the age of 19, he committed the crime of having sex with an underage girl in 2001.

April 20

Politico, Matt Gaetz sparked William Barr to drop the f-bomb in a legal spat over Florida voting, Betsy Woodruff Swan and Daniel Lippman, April 20, 2021. In mentioning a controversial legal opinion to Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Matt Gaetz triggered the U.S. attorney general's ire.

Months before news broke that the feds were investigating him for sex trafficking, Rep. Matt Gaetz was at the center of a separate internal fight at the Justice Department. The sparring match involved an Oval Office meeting, a foul-mouthed threat from the attorney general and voting in Florida. It has not been previously reported.

In Aug. 2018, President Donald Trump nominated Larry Keefe — a former law partner of Gaetz’s at the firm Keefe, Anchors & Gordon — as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida. More than a year after he was sworn in, and as Joe Biden was locking up the Democratic nomination, Keefe looked to open a wide-ranging probe into voter fraud in Florida, according to two people familiar with the matter.

To open the probe, he needed approval from the Public Integrity Section at the Justice Department’s headquarters. The lawyers there blanched at the statewide scope of Keefe’s proposal, the sources said, and indicated they thought it would be too broad.

Keefe told Gaetz that he was facing resistance from the Public Integrity Section, according to a third person familiar with the situation.

In a phone interview with POLITICO about this reporting, Gaetz described the conversation this way: “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.”

Specifically, Gaetz said their conversation was about whether U.S. attorneys whose districts included state capital cities could investigate voter fraud in parts of the state outside their districts.

Gaetz described Keefe’s view of the law this way: Since presidential electors are certified in state capital cities, any harm related to their fraudulent certification would be caused there — meaning the U.S. attorneys whose districts included those cities should have the authority to investigate those crimes.

“I got the sense from Keefe that the DOJ wanted U.S. attorneys to be very passive when it came to election integrity,” Gaetz said.

After Keefe and Gaetz discussed the issue, the congressman had a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House with Trump. Gaetz said Trump brought up his views on fraud connected to mail-in voting. In response, Gaetz brought up 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 said. “I also shared with President Trump that Keefe had faced substantial resistance from the Department of Justice.”

Gaetz said that Trump then told White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who was in the room, to tell Attorney General William Barr that Trump believed Keefe’s legal theory had merit.

When Barr learned about Gaetz’s conversation with the president, he was incensed. The attorney general called the U.S. attorney and gave him an earful, according to two people familiar with the call.

“If I ever hear of you talking to Gaetz or any other congressman again about business before the Department, I am going to fucking fire your ass,” Barr told him, according to one of the people with knowledge of the call.

Gaetz said he didn’t know about any testy conversations.

“I am unaware of any discussion Barr had with Keefe,” he told POLITICO, “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.”

Barr declined to comment for this story. A spokesperson for Trump also declined to comment. A DOJ spokesperson declined to comment.

Trump won Florida handily in the 2020 race.

Keefe, like almost every other U.S. attorney appointed by Trump, was asked to resign by the Biden administration and left office on Feb. 28. Keefe said in a statement: “It is not appropriate for me to comment on details related to my previous service as a U.S. Attorney. I stand by the decisions I made and the actions I took in honoring and enforcing the laws of this nation during my public service.”

Gaetz is reportedly being investigated for whether he engaged in sex trafficking. He has not been charged with a crime, and no women have publicly accused him of sexual misconduct in the three weeks since the New York Times first reported on the investigation. He has denied any wrongdoing.

At the time of Keefe and Gaetz’s attempted investigation, the issue of voting rights, especially in Florida and other swing states, was a top national political story. Republicans have long raised concerns about voter fraud hurting the legitimacy of elections, even though numerous studies have shown that there are very few actual cases. Voting rights advocates, meanwhile, engaged in a wide-ranging effort to help people convicted of felonies who’d completed their prison sentences register to vote.

April 19

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Matt Gaetz knew this was coming, Bill Palmer, April 19, 2021. Campaign finance reports dug up by NBC local news reveal that Congressman Matt Gaetz has been using campaign donations to pay for his legal bills in relation to the federal criminal investigation that’s breathing down his neck. This is a red flag, but it’s not surprising.

Here’s the part that does stand out, though.

bill palmer report logo headerThough Matt Gaetz didn’t learn until the very end of 2020 that he was under federal criminal investigation, this same NBC report reveals that Gaetz began spending big bucks on legal bills back in July of 2020. In fact Gaetz started talking to lawyers immediately after his associate NBC News logoJoel Greenberg was criminally indicted.

This means that the minute Greenberg was arrested, Matt Gaetz knew he was going to end up being criminally investigated as well.

That doesn’t prove his guilt. But when your friend gets arrested for something and you immediately hire a lawyer under the presumption that your friend’s evidence trail is going to lead back to you, it’s not exactly a good look. Federal criminal investigations take forever to play out, but Gaetz was correct when he presumed nine months ago that this one would eventually catch up to him.

April 18

Raw Story via Salon, Matt Gaetz's dad may have called in favors to keep Florida lawmakers quiet on scandal, Tom Boggioni, April 18, 2021. Matt Gaetz's father, a longtime political power in the Florida Panhandle, reportedly working to dampen criticism.

In a deep dive into the influence the father of Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., has had on his son's political rise, a Florida political operative claimed that "Papa Gaetz" was using his considerable political influence to tamp down criticism of his embattled son.

don gaetzAccording to Politico's Gary Fineout, it is no secret in Florida political circles that state Sen. Don Gaetz — known as "Papa Gaetz," right — has used his years lording over and wheeling and dealing in Panhandle politics, as well as his substantial wealth, to guide his son — referred to as "Baby Gaetz" — into the public eye and Congress.

"Matt Gaetz's political trail was not just preceded but heavily influenced by his father, a Republican multi-millionaire businessman who had a reputation for rhetorical flourishes and drag-out political fights. Don Gaetz all but paved his son's way into Florida's political world, and some suggest that his father's stature and influence is even helping his son as he faces a probe into potential sex trafficking," Fineout wrote.

According to a former lawmaker colleague of the elder Gaetz, the father of the Republican House member has always been a force in the community.

matt gaetz official"He was a force of nature," explained former state Senate President Joe Negron, with Fineout reporting, "And Don Gaetz found himself in plenty of battles — and still is today. Last year, he went after a former legislator who once fired his son and who was seeking local office. Don Gaetz clashed enough times with former Gov. Rick Scott — now a senator — that the GOP governor lined up opposition to Don Gaetz's bid to become president of the University of West Florida."

According to one Florida political insider, while Don Gaetz has kept mostly in the background — for the time being — as his son is investigated over sex trafficking accusations, he is working behind the scenes to assist his son, left.

"Don has a lot of power and friends in Florida politics," the political operative said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There are a lot of people who owe him favors. They are repaying those favors by staying silent about his son."

April 17

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz runs and hides, Bill Palmer, April 17, 2021. In the Twitter universe, Matt Gaetz is combatively swinging away at everyone and everything, attacking the media outlets that are reporting on his scandal, and accusing everyone of being fake news. But in the real world, it turns out Gaetz is running and hiding.

bill palmer report logo headerMatt Gaetz is now avoiding his own congressional office and using the side door to enter the House chamber in the hope of hiding from reporters who are looking to ask him questions, according to a new report from CNN. This comes even as most (not all) House Republicans are actively trying to avoid being seen with him, and Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy fumbles over questions about what he’s going to do to Gaetz.

This serves to underscore two points. First, Matt Gaetz’s scandal centers around alleged underage sex trafficking. It’s not some garden variety political controversy. It’s the kind of thing that no one wants to be associated with. Even House Republicans, who are increasingly proud of their corruption and depravity these days, have to be worried about being seen with Gaetz in case he ends up going down for it.

Second, Matt Gaetz is an inherently unlikable person who has spent his entire political career behaving like a clown and showing zero respect for the institutions of government. It’s not surprising to find out that most House members, including a whole lot of House Republicans, simply hate the guy and therefore aren’t inclined to stick their necks out to give him the benefit of the doubt.

April 15matt gaetz ginger luckey twitter

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and his fiance, Ginger Luckey, in a Facebook photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, How the Justice Dept. came to investigate Rep. Matt Gaetz, Matt Zapotosky and Michael Scherer, April 15, 2021. A stalking case against a Florida tax collector metastasized after officials arrested him and seized electronic records pointing to Gaetz, a prominent ally of Donald Trump.

This account of how the Justice Department’s investigation evolved from an examination of a local tax collector’s alleged misdeeds to a sprawling probe of sex and corruption involving a prominent Trump ally is based on interviews with more than a dozen people involved in the investigation or otherwise tied to Gaetz or Greenberg, as well as police reports and other public records. Many of those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains politically sensitive.

Harlan Hill, a Gaetz spokesman, said in response to a request for comment, “Is the media just going to continue running the same — anonymously ‘sourced’ — stories every day, repackaged, in order to avoid admitting the obvious . . . that over the past two weeks they hyped charges and allegations that Rep. Gaetz has repeatedly denied and that there remains zero evidence of?”

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Media Has Now Acknowledged Trump-Russia Collusion. When Will It Acknowledge Trump Privately Confessed to It in 2018? Seth Abramson, seth abramson headshotApril 16, 2021. The first of two shoes just dropped on America with a resounding bang. The second will come eventually, most say—but those who know the Trump-Russia case know it actually hit back in January 2018.

seth abramson proof logoThis article will be one of the shorter ones in the history of Proof, as I’ve little interest in running more victory laps than I already have regarding the fact that the New York Times and every other major media outlet in the United States has now acknowledged that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian intelligence prior to the 2016 general election—and not via a tangential figure, either, but the top official in the campaign, campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Trump-Russia collusion was (and remains) a stain upon our country, so while I’m pleased that, after four years of attacks by major media, those of us who researched and substantiated the fact of Trump-Russia collusion years ago are finally being publicly vindicated, there is still very little reason for celebration.

April 14

Pro-Trump Insurrection, Gaetz Probes (Daily Index)

Daily Beast, Investigation: Matt Gaetz’s Wingman Paid Dozens of Young Women—and a 17-Year-Old, Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger, April 14, 2021.Venmo payment daily beast logorecords reveal a vast network of young women received money from Rep. Matt Gaetz’s associate, the accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg.

As new details emerge about Rep. Matt Gaetz’s role in an alleged sex ring, The Daily Beast has obtained several documents showing that the suspected ringleader of the group, Joel Greenberg, made more than 150 Venmo payments to dozens of young women, and to a girl who was 17 at the time.

The payment from Greenberg, an accused sex trafficker, to the 17-year-old took place in June 2017. It was for $300 and, according to the memo field, was for “Food.”

Greenberg’s relationship with Gaetz, and the money Greenberg paid to women, is a focal point for the Justice Department investigation into Gaetz. And the new documents obtained by The Daily Beast—containing years of online financial transactions—establish a clear pattern: Greenberg paid multiple young women (and at least one girl) hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars on Venmo in one transaction after another.

Nearly a year after Greenberg’s June 2017 payment, Gaetz Venmo’d Greenberg to “Hit up ___,” using a nickname for the teen. She was 18 years old by then, and as The Daily Beast reported, Greenberg described the payment as being for “School.”
At least 16 Venmo payments to 12 different women were listed as being for ‘School.’

It was one of at least 16 Venmo payments to 12 different women listed as being for “School.” Typically, the payments were for around $500, but also went higher than $1,000 in the transactions obtained by The Daily Beast.

Gaetz made only one previously unreported transaction in the newly obtained documents: a payment from the Florida congressman to the former Seminole County tax commissioner for $300 on November 1, 2018, with the love hotel emoji (“🏩”) in the memo field. The Daily Beast was unable to tie that transaction directly to any woman, but confirmed that Greenberg booked one night for that date at The Alfond Inn, a luxury hotel in Winter Park, Florida.

Greenberg—who was a close associate of Gaetz—now sits in jail after being indicted on 33 counts, including sex trafficking, conspiracy to bribe a public official, and stalking. The federal indictment claims Greenberg was “engaged in ‘sugar daddy’ relationships,” and he is said to be helping federal agents in their now-expanded investigation into the GOP congressman from the Florida panhandle.

“I'm sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, told reporters last week.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Two women try to defend Matt Gaetz, end up making things far worse for him, Bill Palmer, April 14, 2021. The Matt Gaetz scandal, in bill palmeraddition to being repulsive, it also just plain weird. It involves everything from Gaetz being dumb enough to allegedly send digital cash in exchange for sex, to Gaetz having a cartoon villain friend who’s flipped on him.

Now it turns out even the attempted defense of Matt Gaetz is getting weird. Two women are telling CNN that they attended sex and drug fueled parties with Gaetz and a bunch of other unnamed Florida Republican politicians. Bizarrely, they’re not doing this to rat him out; they say they’re doing this to defend him.

bill palmer report logo headerCNN says that the women came forward because they wanted to make clear that they didn’t see any sex trafficking or underage girls at theseparties. Even if this is true, it in no way exonerates Gaetz; it simply means that he didn’t engage in underage sex trafficking at those particular parties.

CNNWorse, these two women just helped to confirm that Matt Gaetz likes to attend parties with his fellow Florida Republican politicians where drugs republican elephant logolike ecstasy are passed around and sex is rampant. This opens the door for the Feds to investigate these parties, and potentially use drug charges to pressure party attendees to testify against Gaetz and the various other politicians in attendance.

When this all started, we predicted that Matt Gaetz would end up taking a bunch of other Florida Republicans down with him, due to the nature of how federal criminal investigations tend to spiral outward from their origin point, for as wide as the evidence will go. Now it’s starting to look like things are indeed on that path.

We’re also left to wonder if these two women came forward of their own volition, or if Matt Gaetz perhaps encouraged them to speak up and “defend” him like this. If Gaetz is indeed behind this, then he’s making an even bigger mess for himself than we thought.

politico CustomPolitico, Exclusive: New details shed light on Gaetz’s Bahamas trip, Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). Federal agents executed a search warrant and seized the Florida congressman’s iPhone last winter.

The group took off for their Bahamas weekend getaway on three separate flights. Most of the passengers, which included at least five young women, flew out of Orlando on two separate private planes. Matt Gaetz flew commercial.

The details of that September 2018 trip are sparse, but they are critical to the allegations against Gaetz, the Florida congressman currently the subject of a federal sex-crimes investigation that is threatening his career.

Gaetz, who has not been charged, has consistently denied the two anonymous claims against him: that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for sex.

Gaetz’s predicament as the subject of a serious investigation became clearer this winter when federal agents executed a search warrant and seized his iPhone, according to interviews with three people who were told of the matter by Gaetz, who changed his phone number in late December. Around that time, the sources said, federal agents also seized his former girlfriend’s phone before she went into work in the morning. She declined comment.

ron desantis oAt the time of the 2018 trip, Gaetz was a top adviser to Republican Ron DeSantis, right, who was running for governor, and went on to manage his transition team months later. DeSantis has long been a top Gaetz ally but declined to comment on his legal woes Monday when asked by reporters.

In the Bahamas, Gaetz was joined by two GOP allies: Halsey Beshears, then a state legislator, and Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and Republican fundraiser for DeSantis, according to three sources, including one who was part of the group.

Also among those on the trip: the former minor who is key to the investigation, whose presence on the trip was previously unreported. According to one of the women in the group who spoke on condition of anonymity, everyone on the trip was over the age of 18 — including the woman in question, who had turned 18 years old months before the trip, she said.

The woman was born in December 1999, according to a personal website, but POLITICO has been unable to confirm the woman’s official date of birth.

No one on the trip engaged in prostitution, the source said.

But questions surrounding the ages of some of the women surfaced immediately upon their return — three of them looked so young when they returned on Beshears’ private plane that U.S. Customs briefly stopped and questioned him, according to sources familiar with the trip, including a woman on the flight.

As the investigation intensified this winter, Beshears abruptly resigned as Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary, a post that made him the state’s top business regulator, noting he had contracted Covid-19. But he confided to two friends recently that he believes he’s the subject of the investigation, the friends told POLITICO.

Beshears refused comment and his lawyer did not return calls. Both the lawmaker and his former girlfriend declined to comment.

Conspicuously absent from the 2018 Bahamas trip was another official in their circle, former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, whose alleged criminal conduct sparked the wide-ranging investigation. Indicted last August for sex trafficking the underage girl in question — conduct federal authorities say occurred between May and November 2017 — Greenberg is currently in jail and reportedly contemplating a deal with federal prosecutors as he faces 33 charges including federal stalking and a host of financial crimes. In July 2020, as the full scope of his legal troubles were coming into view, Greenberg made a failed attempt to get politically connected friends to ask Gaetz to get President Donald Trump to pardon him, two of the friends told POLITICO.

Greenberg was not invited to the Bahamas, the three sources said, because of a conflict with Pirozzolo’s girlfriend. Pirozzolo, who recently told patients that his office was closed “due to a family emergency,” could not be reached for comment, nor could his lawyer or girlfriend.

The woman whose age is in question has also declined to comment on the case, in which investigators are also examining whether sex was explicitly exchanged for money or drugs. POLITICO is withholding her name because she is the alleged victim of a sex crime.

Before his indictment for sex-trafficking the underage girl, Greenberg told a mutual friend in an Aug. 14 WhatsApp chat last year that federal agents sought to speak to her, but she was unwilling.

“They contacted her and are wanting her to talk. She doesn’t want to talk to them,” he wrote to the friend.

The woman’s testimony would be crucial in a case against Gaetz — among other details, she can clarify her age when they allegedly had sexual relations. Three Gaetz friends told POLITICO that the lawmaker, who was single at the time, had told them he had sexual relations with the woman after she turned 18.

And as one of at least five women who went on the Bahamas trip with Gaetz, she could shed light on details that would be key to a prosecution under the Mann Act, which forbids transporting people of any age across state lines for purposes of prostitution. An attorney representing another target in the Greenberg indictment said investigators are examining the Bahamas trip in light of the Mann Act.

Such cases can be complicated, which is one reason prosecutors in Florida gave up more than a decade ago on filing federal charges against notorious pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Federal prosecutors in New York did indict Epstein in 2019, but he died in jail weeks later, apparently by suicide.

Former federal judge Paul Cassell, a University of Utah law professor, cautioned that the statute “is largely in disuse but it still remains a theoretical option” for prosecutors.

Some of the women on the Bahamas trip entered the orbit of Gaetz and Greenberg through the SeekingArrangement website — a dating website that connects women with so-called sugar daddies — according to interviews with friends and associates who know the two men, and Greenberg introduced him to young women he met on the site. Gaetz said he’s never been on the site.

Lawrence Walters, a First Amendment lawyer in Orlando who has represented sugar daddy websites and clients accused of prostitution, said prosecutions in such cases can be difficult.

“Every type of dating relationship has an exchange of value. It’s largely why law enforcement hasn’t wanted to weigh into these sugar daddy-type relationships area because of that tremendous grey area,” Walters said, noting the distinction between “dating and exchange of value in a relationship vs. all-out commercial prostitution. We don’t have a lot of court rulings on that. Prosecutors tend to focus on very clear cases so they don’t get into these issues. But if they wanted to pursue a sugar daddy-type relationship, dating relationship, there are very thorny personal, societal and constitutional issues they have to deal with.”

Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.

Palmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Matt Gaetz is panicking, Bill Palmer, April 14, 2021. Matt Gaetz spent Tuesday feuding with CNN, even going so far as to insist bill palmerthat the cable news network is conspiring against him. This stuff may play well with Gaetz’s core support base. But then Tuesday night happened, and it was a reminder that this isn’t the kind of scandal that Gaetz can tweet his way out of.

First, the New York Times reported last night that Gaetz’s associate Joel Greenberg actually flipped on him last year, likely meaning that the Feds are much further along in their criminal probe into Gaetz than previously expected. Then Politico reported late last night that the Feds seized Gaetz’s phone in December, right around the time he reportedly sought a blanket preemptive pardon from Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerTo be clear, the Feds would not have been able to obtain a warrant to seize Gaetz’s phone unless they already had some evidence connecting Gaetz to criminal activity. It’s not known what the Feds found on Gaetz’s phone. But this does mean that they likely already have all of Gaetz’s communications with everyone else involved in the scandal, including any women or girls, along with Gaetz’s financial records in apps matt gaetz officialsuch as Venmo.

If the reporting is true that Gaetz, right, sought a last minute pardon from Trump (they’ve both denied it in trickily worded statements), then it means that Gaetz has been expecting to end up indicted since his phone was seized. Federal criminal investigations move at a glacially slow pace in the name of building a comprehensive case that’s unbeatable at trial, but they get there eventually.

In other words, even a lunkhead like Gaetz knows that attacking CNN on Twitter isn’t going to save him. This is going to come down to the evidence against him at trial. Perhaps he’s simply behaving this way on Twitter to try to motivate his support base to fund his inevitable criminal defense. Even he knows that no one can tweet their way out of an indictment – at least now that Trump is no longer in power. Or maybe he’s just panicking because he’s cornered and doesn’t know what else to do.

 

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

ny times logoNew York Times, Indicted Gaetz Associate Is Said to Be Cooperating With Justice Dept., Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). Joel Greenberg has been talking to federal investigators since last year about the conduct of Representative Matt Gaetz and others.

A former local official in Florida indicted in the Justice Department investigation that is also focused on Representative Matt Gaetz has been providing investigators with information since last year about an array of topics, including Mr. Gaetz’s activities, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Joel Greenberg, a onetime county tax collector, disclosed to investigators that he and Mr. Gaetz had encounters with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex, the people said. The Justice Department is investigating the involvement of the men with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments and whether the men had sex with a 17-year-old in violation of sex trafficking statutes, people familiar with the inquiry have said.

Mr. Greenberg, who is said to have met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances and introduced them to Mr. Gaetz, could provide investigators with firsthand accounts of their activities.

Mr. Greenberg began speaking with investigators once he realized that the government had overwhelming evidence against him and that his only path to leniency lay in cooperation, the people said. He has met several times with investigators to try to establish his trustworthiness, though the range of criminal charges against him — including fraud — could undermine his credibility as a witness.

Mr. Greenberg faces dozens of other counts including sex trafficking of a minor, stalking a political rival and corruption. He was first indicted in June. The Justice Department inquiry drew national attention in recent weeks when investigators’ focus on Mr. Gaetz, a high-profile supporter of President Donald J. Trump who knew Mr. Greenberg through Republican political circles in Florida, came to light.

Speculation about Mr. Greenberg’s cooperation began mounting last week, after his lawyer and a federal prosecutor both said in court that he was likely to plead guilty in the coming weeks. “I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Fritz Scheller, Mr. Greenberg’s lawyer, told reporters afterward.

The United States attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida is leading the investigation, which is examining not only whether Mr. Greenberg, Mr. Gaetz and others broke sex trafficking laws but also whether Mr. Gaetz paid for women over the age of 18 to travel with him to places like the Bahamas.

A Justice Department spokesman and a lawyer for Mr. Greenberg declined to comment.

A spokesman for Mr. Gaetz said he had done nothing wrong. “Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex,” said the spokesman, Harlan Hill, who suggested that Mr. Greenberg was “trying to ensnare innocent people in his troubles.”

Prosecutors often seek out cooperators in complex investigations where an insider’s account can help make their cases. Typically, the authorities meet with potential cooperators many times before formally agreeing to a plea deal to determine what information they have and whether they could serve as a witness against others.

ny times logoNew York Times, Capitol Police Told to Hold Back on Riot Response on Jan. 6, Report Finds, Luke Broadwater, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). Despite being tipped that “Congress itself is the target,” officers were ordered not to use crowd-control weapons, according to a scathing new report.

The Capitol Police had clearer advance warnings about the Jan. 6 attack than were previously known, including the potential for violence in which “Congress itself is the target.” But officers were instructed by their leaders not to use their most aggressive tactics to hold off the mob, according to a scathing new report by the agency’s internal investigator.

In a 104-page report, the inspector general, Michael A. Bolton, criticized the way the Capitol Police prepared for and responded to the mob violence on Jan. 6. The report was reviewed by The New York Times and will be the subject of a Capitol Hill hearing on Thursday.

Mr. Bolton found that the agency’s leaders failed to adequately prepare despite explicit warnings that pro-Trump extremists posed a threat to law enforcement and civilians and that the police used defective protective equipment. He also found that the leaders ordered their Civil Disturbance Unit to refrain from using its most powerful crowd-control tools — like stun grenades — to put down the onslaught.

The report offers the most devastating account to date of the lapses and miscalculations around the most violent attack on the Capitol in two centuries.

Three days before the siege, a Capitol Police intelligence assessment warned of violence from supporters of President Donald J. Trump who believed his false claims that the election had been stolen. Some had even posted a map of the Capitol complex’s tunnel system on pro-Trump message boards.

“Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th,” the threat assessment said, according to the inspector general’s report. “Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike.”

But on Jan. 5, the agency wrote in a plan for the protest that there were “no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress.” And the former chief of the Capitol Police has testified that the force had determined that the likelihood of violence was “improbable.”

Mr. Bolton concluded such intelligence breakdowns stemmed from dysfunction within the agency and called for “guidance that clearly documents channels for efficiently and effectively disseminating intelligence information to all of its personnel.”

That failure conspired with other lapses inside the Capitol Police force to create a dangerous situation on Jan. 6, according to his account. The agency’s Civil Disturbance Unit, which specializes in handling large groups of protesters, was not allowed to use some of its most powerful tools and techniques against the crowd, on the orders of supervisors.

April 13

ny times logoNew York Times, Indicted Gaetz Associate Is Said to Be Cooperating With Justice Dept., Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner, April 13, 2021. Joel Greenberg has been talking to federal investigators since last year about the conduct of Representative Matt Gaetz and others.

A former local official in Florida indicted in the Justice Department investigation that is also focused on Representative Matt Gaetz has been providing investigators with information since last year about an array of topics, including Mr. Gaetz’s activities, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Joel Greenberg, a onetime county tax collector, disclosed to investigators that he and Mr. Gaetz had encounters with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex, the people said. The Justice Department is investigating the involvement of the men with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments and whether the men had sex with a 17-year-old in violation of sex trafficking statutes, people familiar with the inquiry have said.

Mr. Greenberg, who is said to have met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances and introduced them to Mr. Gaetz, could provide investigators with firsthand accounts of their activities.

Mr. Greenberg began speaking with investigators once he realized that the government had overwhelming evidence against him and that his only path to leniency lay in cooperation, the people said. He has met several times with investigators to try to establish his trustworthiness, though the range of criminal charges against him — including fraud — could undermine his credibility as a witness.

Mr. Greenberg faces dozens of other counts including sex trafficking of a minor, stalking a political rival and corruption. He was first indicted in June. The Justice Department inquiry drew national attention in recent weeks when investigators’ focus on Mr. Gaetz, a high-profile supporter of President Donald J. Trump who knew Mr. Greenberg through Republican political circles in Florida, came to light.

Speculation about Mr. Greenberg’s cooperation began mounting last week, after his lawyer and a federal prosecutor both said in court that he was likely to plead guilty in the coming weeks. “I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Fritz Scheller, Mr. Greenberg’s lawyer, told reporters afterward.

The United States attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida is leading the investigation, which is examining not only whether Mr. Greenberg, Mr. Gaetz and others broke sex trafficking laws but also whether Mr. Gaetz paid for women over the age of 18 to travel with him to places like the Bahamas.

A Justice Department spokesman and a lawyer for Mr. Greenberg declined to comment.

A spokesman for Mr. Gaetz said he had done nothing wrong. “Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex,” said the spokesman, Harlan Hill, who suggested that Mr. Greenberg was “trying to ensnare innocent people in his troubles.”

Prosecutors often seek out cooperators in complex investigations where an insider’s account can help make their cases. Typically, the authorities meet with potential cooperators many times before formally agreeing to a plea deal to determine what information they have and whether they could serve as a witness against others.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The calm before the Matt Gaetz storm, Bill Palmer, right, April 13, 2021. After a couple weeks of nonstop headlines about the Matt Gaetz scandal, the new information coming out about it seems to have dried up a bit of late. Some folks out there will take this as a sign that the case against him has fallen apart, or that his scandal is going to be forgotten, or that – in the bill palmertired words of every fatalist out there – he’s “getting away with it all.”

But nothing works that way. Keep in mind that the federal criminal probe into Matt Gaetz has been going on in secret for months. What we witnessed on the outside of things was the media getting wind of the scandal, printing everything it could initially learn on the surface, and going a bit quiet while it digs deeper into the scandal and tries to learn more.

bill palmer report logo headerMeanwhile the Feds just made the big breakthrough they cared about, getting Gaetz’s associate Joel Greenberg to agree to cut a plea deal against him. So now the Feds will be tracking down all of the leads, evidence, and communications that Greenberg, right, gives them about Gaetz – and again, that kind of thing plays out behind joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorclosed doors, except when the media finds a way to get wind of certain developments.

So if the publicly visible trail on Matt Gaetz goes cold for a bit, whether it ends up being a few days or a few weeks, it’s absolutely not a sign that the whole thing has gone away and that Gaetz is off the hook. Federal criminal investigations simply don’t work like that.

If anything, this is the relative calm before the storm. The avenues the Feds are investigating in the Matt Gaetz scandal are as varied as they are explosive. In the end, this whole thing is likely going to end up being far uglier than it has been up to this point. Federal probes don’t just go away, simply because they’ve disappeared from the headlines for stretch.

April 11

New Yorker, Commentary: The G.O.P.’s Matt Gaetz Problem, Amy Davidson Sorkin, April 11, 2021. It’s tempting to see the Gaetz affair as the last shudder of the era new yorker logoof Donald Trump, but the political culture that the two men represent won’t easily be swept away.

How did Representative Matt Gaetz get into so much trouble? There are so many allegations surrounding the Florida Republican and the carnival-like crowd of characters around him that it’s hard to know where to begin.

One place might be with a letter, signed by “a very concerned student” and sent, in the fall of 2019, to a private school in Florida, accusing a music teacher there of sexually abusing a child. A Facebook account supposedly belonging to “a very concerned teacher” made similar charges. According to federal prosecutors, the accusations were fiction, and the author of both was a man named Joel Greenberg. He was then the tax collector of Seminole County, and he regularly partied with Gaetz.

matt gaetz officialThe ensuing investigation uncovered a wide array of questionable and, prosecutors allege, illegal activities. Greenberg has been indicted on dozens of counts, from stalking the music teacher to perpetrating an embezzlement scheme involving cryptocurrency to the trafficking for sex of a girl who was younger than eighteen.

Investigators are reportedly focusing on whether Gaetz, left, paid a seventeen-year-old girl — perhaps the same girl — to travel across state lines for sex. A related question is whether he or Greenberg used various apps to pay women for sex. (Gaetz has denied the allegations; he also said that he was “not a monk, and certainly not a criminal.”) Last Thursday, prosecutors indicated that Greenberg would strike a plea deal. If he does, and if he coöperates, Gaetz should be a very concerned congressman.

It’s tempting to see the Gaetz affair as the last shudder of the era of Donald Trump, and, to an extent, that’s true. Gaetz was elected to the House in 2016, the year that Trump won the White House. The congressman became a Trump favorite; he appeared with the President at rallies and took his cues from him on social media and Fox News, both in tone and in targets. (As of last week, Trump had been relatively quiet about the investigation, but he denied a report that john boehner coverGaetz had asked him for a pardon.)

The G.O.P.’s Gaetz problem, though, is about more than just picking up the pieces of a failed Presidency.

The political culture that Trump and Gaetz represent won’t easily be swept away, because, as much as Trump made its edges sharper, the contours were already in place. John Boehner, the former Republican Speaker of the House, in an essay for Politico adapted from his new book (On the House, shown at right), describes how the 2010 election brought to Congress a cohort of Republicans whose priorities were “how to fundraise off of outrage or how they could get on Hannity that night,” and who were fixated on “conspiracies and crusades.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Like the Tiger King Got Elected Tax Collector’: Inside the Case That Ensnared Matt Gaetz, Patricia Mazzei, Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner, April 11, 2021. Joel Greenberg, a onetime local official in Florida, is accused of an array of crimes, including bribery, stalking and corruption.

Long before the F.B.I. began to scrutinize a tax collector in Florida named Joel Greenberg — and long before his trail led them to Representative Matt Gaetz — he amassed an outlandish record in the mundane local public office he had turned into a personal fief of power.

Records and interviews detailed a litany of accusations: Mr. Greenberg strutted into work with a pistol on his hip in a state that does not allow guns to be openly carried. He spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to create no-show jobs for a relative and some of his groomsmen. He tried to talk his way out of a traffic ticket, asking a police officer for “professional courtesy.” He played police officer himself, putting a flashing light on his car to pull over a woman and accuse her of speeding. He published an anti-Muslim Facebook post. He solicited help to hack critics on the county commission.

Stalking a rival candidate got him arrested. Federal agents looking into the matter found at least five fake IDs in his wallet and backpack, and kept digging.

Their inquiry culminated in 33 federal charges against Mr. Greenberg, 36, including sex trafficking of a minor, bribery, fraud and stalking — and led to a mushrooming political scandal that burst into national news in recent days and ensnared Mr. Gaetz, who is a close ally of President Donald J. Trump, and other influential Florida Republicans, with the investigation continuing.

Though the sex trafficking charge against Mr. Greenberg and the ensuing Justice Department examination into Mr. Gaetz — including whether he had sex with the same 17-year-old girl — have received the most attention, the array of schemes that Mr. Greenberg is suspected of are broader and altogether show an astonishing disregard for the law by an elected official.

Interviews with people in Seminole County who dealt with Mr. Greenberg and a review of news articles and public records from his past suggest that he went from being a wealthy but troubled teenager who drifted through young adulthood before turning to local politics five years ago and embracing Trumpism.

He quickly built relationships with Mr. Gaetz, 38, whom he had met in political circles that also included Chris Dorworth, 44, a real estate developer and lobbyist for Ballard Partners, a powerful firm that had close ties to the Trump administration. (Mr. Greenberg hired Ballard in 2017 to lobby for the tax collector’s office.) Mr. Dorworth announced on Friday that he had resigned from the firm.

Mr. Greenberg acted unlike any other tax collector in Florida. His small-time position left him dissatisfied. His friendships gave him a taste of greater power. He tested the boundaries of what he could get away with, until it all imploded.

Daniel A. Pérez, a lawyer who represented one of Mr. Greenberg’s former employees in a labor dispute, likened the disreputable saga to a Netflix series: “It’s like the Tiger King got elected tax collector.”

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Liz Cheney on Matt Gaetz: ‘The Charges Certainly Are Sickening,’ Justin Baragona, April 11, 2021. ‘Not going to comment further.’ Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), right, while trying to avoid giving any detailed comment on the Matt Gaetz teen sex scandal, still made sure to get her point across about liz cheney oone of her chief tormenters in the House. With Congress launching an ethics investigation into the Florida Republican, Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan asked if Cheney was ready yet to call for Gaetz’s resignation.

“As the mother of daughters, the charges certainly are sickening,” Cheney noted. “And as the speaker noted, there is an ethics investigation underway. There are also criminal investigations underway. And I’m not going to comment further on that publicly right now, Margaret.”

Asked whether she was surprised by the allegations, the Wyoming congresswoman repeated that she was “not going to comment further,” prompting the CBS anchor to reply that she wanted to give Cheney a chance to address the Gaetz story due to their personal history. “Thank you for the opportunity,” a smiling Cheney said, drawing laughter from Brennan.

Greenwald via Substack, Opinion: Due Process, Adult Sexual Morality and the Case of Rep. Matt Gaetz, Glenn Greenwald (author, columnist and attorney, shown below at right), April 11, 2021. The Florida Congressman glenn greenwald firstlookhas not been charged with any crimes. But the reaction to this case raises important questions of political, legal and cultural judgments.

That Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is a pedophile, a sex trafficker, and an abuser of women who forces them to prostitute themselves and use drugs with him is a widespread assumption in many media and political circles. That is true despite the rather significant fact that not only has he never been charged with (let alone convicted of) such crimes, but also no evidence has been publicly presented that any of it is true. He has also vehemently denied all of it. All or some of these accusations very well may be true and, one day — perhaps imminently — there will be ample publicly available evidence demonstrating this.

But that day has not yet arrived. As of now, we know very little beyond what The New York Times initially reported about all of this on March 30: that “people close to the investigation” told the paper that “a Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments.”

The article also said the DOJ “inquiry is also examining whether Mr. Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl and whether she received anything of material value.” Both the NYT and, later, The Daily Beast, indicated the existence of financial transactions involving payments by Gaetz to his associate Joel Greenberg, currently charged with multiple felonies. The New York Times article made clear: “No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear.” That is still true.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz has unhinged Twitter meltdown, Bocha Blue, April 11, 2021. Oh no! Matt Gaetz (Insurrection Party-Florida) has done it again. The self-proclaimed “warrior” cannot seem to stop tweeting. And his tweets are becoming increasingly ridiculous. At this point, it does appear Gaetz either likes all bill palmer report logo headerthe negative attention he’s been receiving or is even more of a moron than we all thought. I’d venture to guess both possibilities are correct.

So, first, Gaetz posted four words. “The truth will prevail!” This caused much amusement on Twitter. You see, people agreed with Gaetz! Only most of his followers see “the truth” a wee bit different than Gaetz does.

His replies were filled with amusing responses from memes of Gaetz in orange jumpsuits to polite inquiries about whether Gaetz planned to attend any school proms. These are most likely not the responses he wanted, but then again, he is Matt Gaetz, so it isn’t that surprising he did not anticipate the blowback.

But Gaetz was not done. In yet another idiotic tweet, Gaetz posted a picture of himself with his fiancee (yes, this person has a fiancee. She has my sympathies.) Gaetz captioned the pic “Rollin with my #RideOrDie.”

Sigh. This tweet was also a mistake. Does Gaetz not realize what this term means? I will take it straight from Wikipedia itself: “referring to a woman willing to support her partner and his risky lifestyle despite how this might endanger or harm her.”

April 10

Miami Herald, Gaetz tells Trump supporters he’s a champion of women, scoffs at ‘smears,’ Bianca Padró Ocasio, April10, 2021 (print ed.). On the same day the U.S. House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating his conduct, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz spoke to a conference of fierce supporters at the Trump National Doral resort, vowing he would fight allegations against him, which he claimed were part of a “deep state” smear campaign to silence him.

miami herald logo“The smears against me range from distortions of my personal life, to wild — and I mean, wild — conspiracy theories,” said the 38-year-old congressman from Northwest Florida. “I won’t be intimidated by a lying media, and I won’t be extorted by a former DOJ [Department of Justice] official and the crooks he is working with. The truth will prevail.”

Gaetz’s speech Friday evening at the “Save America Summit,” part of a four-day conference with a slate of right-wing speakers discussing topics like “election integrity,” was one of his first public appearances since The New York Times reported a week ago that Gaetz was being investigated by the FBI over an alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, in exchange for payments. Gaetz became entangled with the federal investigation, sources told the Times, as part of an inquiry into Seminole County’s former tax collector, Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last year on a slew of federal charges, including sex trafficking a minor and identity theft.

Gaetz, who has not been charged with a crime, has previously acknowledged there is an ongoing investigation but has repeatedly denied the allegations and claimed they are part of an extortion scheme against his family by a former Department of Justice official.

“I’m built for the battle, and I’m not going anywhere,” added Gaetz, who is a well-known conservative firebrand and close ally of former President Donald Trump.

The event was organized by Women for America First, the same group that held the now-infamous “Save America Rally” in Washington on Jan. 6. That rally preceded the march on the U.S. Capitol that ended with the death of five people, injuries to many others and saw hundreds of people breaching the building while Congress was in session. Among the issues the group advances is the baseless claim that there was widespread voter fraud and other irregularities during the 2020 election that led to an elaborate “steal.”

A self-described champion of women

During a 15-minute speech, Gaetz referenced the support he has received from friends, strangers, and political allies including Trump and Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan. He described himself as a champion of women, speaking at length about several women he’s hired and who became an essential part of his time in Congress — even when others advised him he was not doing the right thing.

“It’s just how I was raised,” Gaetz said. “I have seen the potential unlocked with so many brilliant, patriotic women that I have had the chance to work with.”

Many of the attendees at Friday’s event said they don’t believe the allegations against Gaetz are true, either because they don’t trust the stories or because they “just know,” and believe they’re part of a pattern to silence allies of Trump and other conservative voices in Congress. Monika Page, a 72-year-old attendee from Colorado, told the Miami Herald the news stories remind her of the sexual assault allegations that surfaced ahead of the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“I do not believe what he’s been accused of. I believe that is just to discredit him, to try to get him to be quiet, which is not going to work,” said Page. “I’m totally behind Matt, I support him.”

Congressional investigation

ted deutch fl dem oMeanwhile, the investigation announced by the Ethics Committee, which is led by Broward Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, right, only has jurisdiction over sitting members of Congress, and the Committee can defer their investigation to the Department of Justice if criminal activity is suspected.

“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 wrote in a release made public on Friday afternoon. “The Committee...has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding the allegations.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Who’s who in the Matt Gaetz scandal, Philip Bump, April 10, 2021 (print ed.). The scandal and allegations surrounding Rep. Matt Gaetz continues to expand outward. On Thursday, the Daily Beast reported that Gaetz had sent money to his longtime ally Joel Greenberg, who then paid an equivalent amount to three young women. This allegation, intricate and problematic on its own, is simply another point on a wide galaxy of claims and counterclaims involving the congressman.

joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorTo facilitate your ability to track the story, we’ve highlighted key individuals related to the story, both elements of the apparent federal investigation of Gaetz (R-Fla.) and the investigation and activities of Greenberg, right, from which the Gaetz probe apparently originated. Names underlined below are described elsewhere in the glossary. (This excerpt shows only those A through G.)

Alford, Stephen. Alford is part of a group of men hoping to free former FBI agent Robert Levinson from captivity in Iran. As part of that effort, the group approached Matt Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, for funding, a request that the younger Gaetz later alleged was part of an extortion attempt. Alford had twice previously been convicted of fraud.

Ball, Luke. Ball was Matt Gaetz’s spokesman until his resignation last week.

Beshears, Halsey. Beshears is a former Republican state legislator and until his resignation in January for health reasons was member of the administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. According to the New York Times, he was reportedly on a plane that flew from the Bahamas to Florida after a trip funded by Jason Pirozzolo and that also reportedly included Matt Gaetz and female escorts.

Beute, Brian. Beute is a teacher at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, Fla. In October 2019, he filed to run for tax collector of Seminole County, the position then held by Joel Greenberg. Shortly afterward, the school’s headmaster asked him about anonymous complaints alleging that he was a white supremacist and had acted inappropriately with a student. An investigation later allegedly identified Greenberg’s fingerprints on the envelopes in which the anonymous notes had arrived. This formed the basis of the first federal indictment against Greenberg.

Brodeur, Jason. Brodeur is an associate of Matt Gaetz’s who last year won election to the Florida state Senate as a Republican. The New York Times reported on Thursday that Gaetz and lobbyist Chris Dorworth had discussed finding a third-party candidate to run as well, potentially splitting the vote and facilitating Brodeur’s victory. A third-party candidate, Jestine Iannotti, did run.

Dorworth, Chris. A former member of the state legislature, Dorworth now works as a lobbyist with Ballard Partners. The New York Times reports that he and Matt Gaetz discussed finding a third-party candidate to run for the Florida state Senate, potentially boosting the chances of their ally Jason Brodeur. A third-party candidate, Jestine Iannotti ran and was supported by mailers sent to Democratic voters in the district.

Elmore, Erin. Elmore is a former contestant on “The Apprentice” and surrogate for Donald Trump who now works for the consulting firm Logan Circle Group, which is representing Matt Gaetz. On Thursday, Politico reported that she had threatened to sue its reporters for their coverage of Gaetz.

Eskamani, Anna. Eskamani is a Democratic member of the Florida House. Earlier this month, she shared an odd voice mail that Matt Gaetz and Joel Greenberg had left her on July 4, 2019. In it, Greenberg says that he and Gaetz were “just chatting about you and your lovely qualities,” at which point Gaetz chimes in, “We think you’re the future of the Democratic Party in Florida!”

don gaetzGaetz, Don. Don Gaetz, right, is a former Republican elected official in Florida and the father of Matt Gaetz. He made millions of dollars selling a chain of hospice facilities.

Gaetz, Matt. Gaetz, a Republican, was elected to represent Florida’s 1st Congressional District in 2016 and reelected in 2018 and 2020. Before serving in Congress, he served in the Florida legislature as his father, Don Gaetz, had previously. Matt Gaetz and Joel Greenberg have been friends for several years.

Greenberg, Joel. Greenberg was elected as tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., in 2016, defeating the incumbent, Ray Valdes. Greenberg ran on an anti-corruption platform. He served in the position until June of last year, when he resigned following his arrest on charges related to his allegedly attempting to smear Brian Beute, a potential political opponent. Other indictments followed, alleging that Greenberg had abused his office, falsified driver’s licenses, engaged in fraud, bribery and theft and, most seriously, engaged in sex trafficking of minors.

mike pence djt side by side

Associated Press, Investigation: ‘Clear the Capitol,’ Pence pleaded, timeline of riot shows, Lisa Mascarfo, Ben Fox and Lolita C. Baldor, April 10, 2021. From a secure room in the Capitol on Jan. 6, as rioters pummeled police and vandalized the building, Vice President Mike Pence tried to assert control. In an urgent phone call to the acting defense secretary, he issued a startling demand.

ap logo“Clear the Capitol,” Pence said.

Elsewhere in the building, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were making a similarly dire appeal to military leaders, asking the Army to deploy the National Guard.

“We need help,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said in desperation, more than an hour after the Senate chamber had been breached.

At the Pentagon, officials were discussing media reports that the mayhem was not confined to Washington and that other state capitals were facing similar violence in what had the makings of a national insurrection.

mark milley army chief of staff“We must establish order,” said Gen. Mark Milley, right, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a call with Pentagon leaders.

But order would not be restored for hours.

These new details about the deadly riot are contained in a previously undisclosed document prepared by the Pentagon for internal use that was obtained by The Associated Press and vetted by current and former government officials.

The timeline adds another layer of understanding about the state of fear and panic while the insurrection played out, and lays bare the inaction by then-President Donald Trump and how that void contributed to a slowed response by the military and law enforcement. It shows that the intelligence missteps, tactical errors and bureaucratic delays were eclipsed by the government’s failure to comprehend the scale and intensity of a violent uprising by its own citizens.

With Trump not engaged, it fell to Pentagon officials, a handful of senior White House aides, the leaders of Congress and the vice president holed up in a secure bunker to manage the chaos.

While the timeline helps to crystalize the frantic character of the crisis, the document, along with hours of sworn testimony, provides only an incomplete picture about how the insurrection could have advanced with such swift and lethal force, interrupting the congressional certification of Joe Biden as president and delaying the peaceful transfer of power, the hallmark of American democracy.

Lawmakers, protected to this day by National Guard troops, will hear from the inspector general of the Capitol Police this coming week.

“Any minute that we lost, I need to know why,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chair of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which is investigating the siege, said last month.

The timeline fills in some of those gaps.

At 4:08 p.m. on Jan. 6, as the rioters roamed the Capitol and after they had menacingly called out for Pelosi, D-Calif., and yelled for Pence to be hanged, the christopher miller official.jpgvice president was in a secure location, phoning Christopher Miller, left, the acting defense secretary, and demanding answers.

There had been a highly public rift between Trump and Pence, with Trump furious that his vice president refused to halt the Electoral College certification. Interfering with that process was an act that Pence considered unconstitutional. The Constitution makes clear that the vice president’s role in this joint session of Congress is largely ceremonial.

Pence’s call to Miller lasted only a minute. Pence said the Capitol was not secure and he asked military leaders for a deadline for securing the building, according to the document.

By this point it had already been two hours since the mob overwhelmed Capitol Police unprepared for an insurrection. Rioters broke into the building, seized the Senate and paraded to the House. In their path, they left destruction and debris. Dozens of officers were wounded, some gravely.

Just three days earlier, government leaders had talked about the use of the National Guard. On the afternoon of Jan. 3, as lawmakers were sworn in for the new session of Congress, Miller and Milley gathered with Cabinet members to discuss Jan. 6. They also met with Trump.

In that meeting at the White House, Trump approved the activation of the D.C. National Guard and also told the acting defense secretary to take whatever action needed as events unfolded, according to the information obtained by the AP.

The next day, Jan. 4, the defense officials spoke by phone with Cabinet members, including the acting attorney general, and finalized details of the Guard deployment.

The Guard’s role was limited to traffic intersections and checkpoints around the city, based in part on strict restrictions mandated by district officials. Miller also authorized Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy to deploy, if needed, the D.C. Guard’s emergency reaction force stationed at Joint Base Andrews.

Palmer Report, Opinion: “Clear the Capitol” – Trump busted after military leaders defied Mike Pence’s direct request for help, Bill Palmer, right, April 10, 2021. Today bill palmer report logo headerthe Associated Press bill palmerconfirmed in great detail what had already previously been vaguely reported elsewhere: Vice President Mike Pence directly called U.S. military leaders and instructed them to take control of the Capitol building during the January 6th attack, but they ignored him.

To be clear, the Vice President can’t give a formal order to the military; unless the President is unreachable or indisposed. But as a practical matter, U.S. military would never simply ignore an instruction from the Vice President, unless the President told them to ignore it.ap logoIn other words, this helps confirm that Donald Trump really did order U.S. military leaders to defy Mike Pence’s instructions to come rescue him – and only hours later did the military finally take action. This means that Trump actively worked to protect the insurrectionists inside the Capitol building, which makes him guilty of not just inciting the attack, but conspiring to commit it.

This scandal is just getting started, with hundreds of insurrectionists having been arrested, and some of them cutting plea deals, even as the low level leaders of the attack are now being hit with conspiracy charges. We expect these charges to continue to work their way all the way to the top of the hierarchy – meaning Donald Trump.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: New Developments Inextricably Link Trump to Gaetz Case, Seth Abramson, April 10, 2021. Links between Trump and the ongoing seth abramson headshotfederal criminal investigations into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) are now too many, too varied, too profound, and too bizarre to ignore.

Introduction: On December 19, 2020, Matt Gaetz thundered to a rabid crowd in West Palm Beach, Florida, “I’m a Donald Trump Republican!” Gaetz’s declaration followed hard upon his now-infamous pre-insurrection claim that “more bad behavior is what we need to advance the America First agenda”, as seth abramson proof logoRepublicans can’t “go back to losing politely.”

matt gaetz officialIncreasingly, it’s looking like Gaetz, left, got both his “bad behavior” and his commitment to Donald Trump over America ramped up much earlier than many realized.

The ties between the two men have been public for some time now, but what changed in just the last 48 hours is that the forty-fifth President of the United States is now connected to the ongoing federal criminal investigation into his chief congressional sycophant to a degree we hadn’t previously appreciated. This article runs through the startling new developments that confirm this—some of which you’ll only read about here at Proof.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz could take half of Florida down with him, Bill Palmer, right, April 10, 2021.When we heard the news that the Feds were investigating bill palmerwhether Matt Gaetz and a Florida lobbyist were conspiring to use a phantom third party candidate to rig a Florida State Senate election, the storyline sounded eerily familiar. After all, just three weeks ago, a Florida State Senator was arrested for using a phantom third party candidate to rig his own reelection.

It turns out these are two different stories, centered around 2020 State Senate elections in two different Florida districts. But here’s the thing. It may actually be worse that it’s two different districts, because what are the odds that it’s a coincidence? In fact Rachel Maddow revealed on her MSNBC show on Friday night that roughly a dozen Florida State Senate races in 2020 had third party candidates who got a lot of votes despite having no real presence in the race.

bill palmer report logo headerGaetz tweeted on Friday night that he wasn’t involved in any such thing. No surprise; he’s been denying everything. Interestingly, the guy that Gaetz, right, was allegedly conspiring with on this just lost his job at a pro-Trump lobbying firm. But it turns out the third party candidate in matt gaetz officialthat race portrayed herself as being a Black woman in her campaign flyers when she was actually white, and after the election was over, she packed up and moved to Sweden. So that’s ahem, suspicious.

Everyone in Florida knows that the Florida Republican Party is corrupt even by Republican standards. But nothing is done about it because, well, it’s Florida.The Governor, Ron DeSantis, is openly corrupt. Florida’s U.S. Senators are career criminal Rick Scott and infantile jackass Marco Rubio. So you don’t exactly expect accountability at the State Senate level.

But the thing about the Trump era is that the usual Republican suspects all took their corruption to an even more extreme level. The State Senator who got arrested last month was being cartoonishly corrupt, staging a third party candidate with the same name as his Democratic opponent. And now the Feds are investigating whether a U.S. Congressman was involved in rigging another Florida State Senate race, even as a double digit number of other suspicious Florida races in 2020 fit the same general profile as the two that are known to be under criminal investigation.

Is it possible that the criminal probe into Matt Gaetz, which started off as a probe into whether he likes underage girls, could end up becoming a wide scale federal criminal probe into felony election rigging in Florida? If this is as ugly as what’s being alleged, Gaetz could end up taking half of Florida down with him.

djt wind jim watson afp getty

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Defeated Trump Is Making a Muddle of the G.O.P., Jonathan Martin and Nicholas Fandos, April 10, 2021 (print ed.). Former President Trump’s instincts for red-meat political fights over governing have left party leaders in a state of confusion over what they stand for.Republican lawmakers are passing voting restrictions to pacify right-wing activists still gripped by former President Donald J. Trump’s lie that a largely favorable election was rigged against them. G.O.P. leaders are lashing out in Trumpian fashion at businesses, baseball and the news media to appeal to many of the same conservatives and voters. And debates over the size and scope of government have been overshadowed by the sort of culture war clashes that the tabloid king relished.

This is the party Mr. Trump has remade.

As G.O.P. leaders and donors gather for a party retreat in Palm Beach this weekend, with a side trip to Mar-a-Lago for a reception with Mr. Trump on Saturday night, the former president’s pervasive influence in Republican circles has revealed a party thoroughly animated by a defeated incumbent — a bizarre turn of events in American politics.

djt maga hatBarred from Twitter, quietly disdained by many Republican officials and reduced to receiving supplicants in his tropical exile in Florida, Mr. Trump has found ways to exert an almost gravitational hold on a leaderless party just three months after the assault on the Capitol that his critics hoped would marginalize the man and taint his legacy.

His preference for engaging in red-meat political fights rather than governing and policymaking have left party leaders in a state of confusion over what they stand for, even when it comes to business, which was once the business of Republicanism. Yet his single term has made it vividly clear what the far right stands against — and how it intends to go about waging its fights.

Having, quite literally, abandoned their traditional party platform last year to accommodate Mr. Trump, Republicans have organized themselves around opposition to the perceived excesses of the left and borrowed his scorched-earth tactics as they do battle. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, excoriated businesses this week for siding with Democrats on G.O.P.-backed voting restrictions, only to backpedal after seeming to suggest he wanted corporations out of politics entirely.

rnc logoThey are doing relatively little to present counterarguments to President Biden on the coronavirus response, his expansive social welfare proposals or, with the important exception of immigration, most any policy issue. Instead, Republicans are attempting to shift the debate to issues that are more inspiring, and unifying, within their coalition and could help them tar Democrats.

So Republicans have embraced fights over seemingly small-bore issues to make a larger argument: By emphasizing the withdrawal from publication of a handful of racially insensitive Dr. Seuss books; the rights of transgender people; and the willingness of large institutions or corporations like Major League Baseball and Coca-Cola to side with Democrats on voting rights, the right is attempting to portray a nation in the grip of elites obsessed with identity politics.

It’s a strikingly different approach from the last time Democrats had full control of government, in 2009 and 2010, when conservatives harnessed the Great Recession to stoke anger about President Barack Obama and federal spending on their way to sweeping midterm gains. But Mr. Biden, a white political veteran, is not much of a foil for the party’s far-right base and is unlikely to grow more polarizing with the country at large.

 

April 9

Probes Of Trump Associates

 

Other GOP Trends, Leaders, Radicals

 

Probes of Trump Associates

CNNCNN, Gaetz makes first public appearance since allegations broke, Anderson Cooper, April 9, 2021 (video report). Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) struck a defiant tone speaking at a Women for America First Summit held at former President Donald Trump's Miami golf resort in his first speech since the federal investigation into whether he broke sex trafficking laws became public.

C-SPAN, Representative Matt Gaetz Addresses "Save America Summit," April 9, 2021 (video report). On the same day the House Ethics Committee announced it was opening a probe into Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) following allegations of sex trafficking and other misconduct, Mr. Gaetz told attendees at the “Save America Summit” in Miami that he was “not going anywhere.” He called the allegations “distortions” of his personal life and “wild conspiracy theories,” promising “the truth will prevail."

 Daily Beast, Investigation: Gaetz Paid Accused Sex Trafficker, Who Then Venmo’d Teen, Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger, Updated April 9, 2021. When JoelGreenberg made his Venmo payments to three young women, he described the money as being for “Tuition,” “School,” and “School.”

daily beast logoIn two late-night Venmo transactions in May 2018, Rep. Matt Gaetz sent his friend, the accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, $900. The next morning, over the course of eight minutes, Greenberg used the same app to send three young women varying sums of money. In total, the transactions amounted to $900.

The memo field for the first of Gaetz’s transactions to Greenberg was titled “Test.” In the second, the Florida GOP congressman wrote “hit up ___.” But instead of a blank, Gaetz wrote a nickname for one of the recipients. (The Daily Beast is not sharing that nickname because the teenager had only turned 18 less than six months before.) When Greenberg then made his Venmo payments to these three young women, he described the money as being for “Tuition,” “School,” and “School.”

The Daily Beast examined these records as a scandal, rooted in a criminal case against Greenberg, engulfs Gaetz.

Gaetz and Greenberg are both connected through Venmo to this then 18-year-old woman—who now works in the porn industry, according to a friend of the girl’s.... Greenberg and Gaetz are also connected on Venmo to at least one other woman whom Greenberg paid with taxpayer funds using a government-issued credit card. Seminole County auditors flagged hundreds of those payments as “questioned or unaccounted for,” and in total found more than $300,000 in suspicious or unjustified expenses.... Gaetz and Greenberg share Venmo connections with at least two women who received payments from Greenberg, and both have professional relationships with each other.

“No one has any idea what he was doing. Zero,” Daniel J. O’Keefe, an accountant who conducted a forensic audit for Seminole County, told the Daily Beast. “The arrogance of these guys. They just felt they were above the law. I’ve never seen it this bad.” O‘Keefe said that, in particular, hotels, weekend expenses, unspecified high-dollar “consulting” fees, and cash advances Greenberg made to himself and others raised a red flag.

Vanity Fair, Commentary: Matt Gaetz Is Well and Truly F--ked, Bess Levin, April 9, 2021.Gaetz may officially be the dumbest congressman alive. Something that’s been made abundantly clear over the last few years is that there is no minimum IQ requirement to serve in Congress (or, obviously, the White House).

There are numerous examples of this to choose from, including but not limited to: Rep. Louie Gohmert, who suggested he caught COVID-19 from wearing a mask; Senator Ted Cruz, who thought no one would notice him on a commercial flight to Cancún amidst a Texas state of emergency; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who claimed the California wildfires were started by Jewish laser beams; and Senator Tommy Tuberville, who doesn’t know the three branches of government. On Thursday, though, a strong case was made for crowning Rep. Matt Gaetz the king of congressional morons, thanks to his decision to be as blatant as possible about allegedly paying women for sex.

Per the Daily Beast: Reporters Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger compared Greenberg’s Venmo transactions and credit card statements to Gaetz’s travel records and expenses, finding that “in some key places, the two timelines and circles of contact overlap.” As the Daily Beast reported the story, Gaetz’s previously public list of Venmo transactions mysteriously disappeared, though of course the company will have retained such records should a grand jury need to see them in the future.

 

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gaetz associate likely to strike plea deal with prosecutors in sex trafficking case, Barbara Liston and Matt Zapotosky, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). An associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) who had been charged with sex trafficking of a minor and was suspected of connecting the congressmen to women with whom he could have sex is in plea negotiations to resolve the allegations against him, according to his lawyer and a prosecutor on the case, a potentially ominous sign for Gaetz if the associate ultimately cooperates with prosecutors in a bid for leniency.

joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorJoel Greenberg, right, the former tax collector for Seminole County, Fla., had first been charged last summer in a bare-bones indictment that prosecutors repeatedly superseded to add charges of sex trafficking of a minor, stealing from the tax office and even trying to use fraud to get covid-19 relief money while out on bond. In the course of the investigation into his conduct, people familiar with the matter have said, federal authorities came across evidence that Gaetz might have committed a crime and launched a separate investigation into him.

At a status conference in the case Thursday, federal prosecutor Roger Handberg told a judge he expected the case to end in a plea, though negotiations are ongoing. Fritz Scheller, an attorney for Greenberg, asked the judge to set a deadline of May 15 for the two sides to either reach a deal, or move toward a trial in the summer.

It was not immediately clear how far the negotiations had gotten, or to what extent a plea agreement would require Greenberg to cooperate with investigators. If matt gaetz officialprosecutors were to get Greenberg on their side as a cooperator, it is possible he could help bolster the case against Gaetz, a higher-profile target. A person who pleads guilty in a criminal case can often lessen their potential penalty by providing information that might be helpful to investigators in other matters.

Gaetz, left, known for his fierce allegiance to former president Donald Trump, would boast to people in Florida politics that he met women joel greenberg wife two children facebook patriotthrough Greenberg, and he also showed them videos on his phone of naked or topless women on multiple occasions, including at parties with Greenberg, people familiar with the matter have said.

Greenberg, shown at right in a Facebook photo with his wife and children, had been a colorful political player in Seminole County, where he unseated a longtime incumbent in the race for tax collector, won a political battle to allow his deputies to carry guns on the job and flaunted his connections to prominent Republicans.

A 2019 photograph that Greenberg posted on Twitter shows him with Gaetz at the White House. He also posted a picture in 2017 of him with Gaetz and Roger Stone, another well-known Trump political ally.

Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.

ny times logoNew York Times, Another aide to Matt Gaetz is said to have quit amid an intensifying Justice Department investigation, Nicholas Fandos and Catie Edmondson, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). A second senior aide to Representative Matt Gaetz quit amid a widening Justice Department inquiry. A second senior aide to Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, abruptly quit in recent days as the congressman tries to fend off a Justice Department sex trafficking investigation and mounting public scrutiny, according to three people familiar with the decision.

The aide, Devin Murphy, resigned as Mr. Gaetz’s legislative director on Friday. He told associates that he was interested in writing bills, not working at TMZ — equating the work that Mr. Gaetz’s aides were now handling to the tabloid publication, according to one of the people, who all asked not to be identified discussing a sensitive personnel matter.

His departure last week came hours after Mr. Gaetz’s communications director, Luke Ball, also resigned. They were among the most senior members of the congressman’s staff in Washington and their exits suggest that even as he vows to remain in the House, Mr. Gaetz may be facing a hollowing-out of his support team.

Mr. Murphy, who had worked for Mr. Gaetz since he came to Congress in 2017, declined to comment on Thursday, but his LinkedIn page recorded that he left his position this month. The congressman’s office also declined to comment. One of the people who confirmed Mr. Murphy’s departure said the parting had not been contentious.

Mr. Gaetz faced another setback on Thursday when lawyers for the government and a key ally ensnared in the scandal, Joel Greenberg, said in court that he was likely to plead guilty, indicating he could cooperate with investigators. The Justice Department is scrutinizing whether Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Gaetz ran afoul of federal sex trafficking laws by paying women for sex and having sex with a 17-year-old girl in exchange for something of value.

With few outside allies coming to his defense, Mr. Gaetz’s office issued a statement on Thursday from women who work for him extolling his respect for them. It was signed simply “The Women of the Office of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz,” without any named signatories.

“Congressman Gaetz has always been a principled and morally grounded leader,” it said. “At no time has any one of us experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect. No hint of impropriety. No ounce of untruthfulness.”

Citing media reports about the Justice Department inquiry, the statement said the women “uniformly reject these allegations as false.”

Click Orlando / WKMG (Orlando, FL), Longtime associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz leaves position at lobbying firm, Mike DeForest, April 9, 2021. Chris Dorworth’s biography and photo have been removed from the Ballard Partners website.

Chris Dchris doworth left matt gaetz joel greenberg resized facebookorworth, at left in the photo, a former Florida state legislator and longtime associate of Congressman Matt Gaetz, at center, abruptly departed his position at a lobbying firm Friday night.

Dorworth joined Ballard Partners in 2012 after losing his seat in the Florida House of Representatives in an upset election that deprived the Lake Mary Republican of serving as the next House Speaker.

“The current political climate is nasty, and I told Brian I don’t think its fair for the recent media storm to take away from their missions,” Dorworth wrote on Twitter Friday night, presumably referring to the lobbying firm’s president, Brian Ballard.

Dorworth’s biography and photo have been removed from the Ballard Partners website.

The voicemail on Dorworth’s cellphone was full when News 6 attempted to contact him for comment late Friday, and he did not immediately respond to a message on social media. Ballard Partners’ Orlando office was closed and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Dorworth served in the Florida legislature alongside Gaetz and has remained close, social media posts suggest.

Gaetz, Dorworth and former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, at right in photo, posed for a photograph together outside the White House in June of 2019.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republican Adam Kinzinger stomps on Matt Gaetz, Bill Palmer, April 8, 2021. If the Republican Party were still functioning on any level, it would have called on Congressman Matt Gaetz to resign last week, so it could argue to voters in the middle that it took swift action against him. Instead the House Republican leadership has spent the past week hemming and hawing and trying to pretend Gaetz didn’t exist. Now that the details of the scandal have gotten even uglier, the GOP has missed its opportunity to score any points.

bill palmer report logo headerBut even as the Republican leadership continues to act like none of this is happening, House Republican Adam Kinzinger is now calling for adam kinzinger headshotMatt Gaetz to resign. Kinzinger is notable in that he also voted to impeach Trump, and has taken other stands against his party.

We’re not surprised that Kinzinger, right, is doing this; he appears to have decided awhile ago that he’s just going to do whatever he wants, and he doesn’t care what Republican leadership thinks of him. But it’s truly embarrassing for the Republican Party that Kinzinger is calling for Matt Gaetz’s ouster before anyone in the Republican leadership is doing so.

Other GOP Trends, Leaders, Radicals

washington post logoWashington Post, In new book, John Boehner says today’s GOP is unrecognizable to traditional conservatives, Paul Kane, Colby Itkowitz and Aaron Blake, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). John Boehner in a new memoir derides today’s Republican Party as unrecognizable to traditional conservatives like himself, held hostage by both former president Donald Trump and by a conservative media echo chamber that is based on creating “chaos” for its own financial needs.

john boehner coverThe former House speaker said that he was happy to be away from Washington on Jan. 20, 2017, when Trump was sworn in as president and completed his hostile takeover of the party to which the Ohio Republican had dedicated decades of his life.“That was fine by me because I’m not sure I belonged to the Republican Party he created,” Boehner writes in On the House: A Washington Memoir, set to be released Tuesday.

In the epilogue, Boehner flatly states that he is glad to be out of elective politics given the party’s sharp distancing from its onetime heroes.

“I don’t even think I could get elected in today’s Republican Party anyway. I don’t think Ronald Reagan could either,” he writes in the book, a full copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

The memoir, coming 5 1/2 years after he left Congress, serves as a rollicking, foul-mouthed recounting of Boehner’s 25 years on Capitol Hill, as well as his thoughts on the past, present and future of the GOP. Although he never held office during the Trump years, Boehner republican elephant logosets the stage for how the Republican Party ended up with the former real estate developer turned reality TV star as its standard-bearer.

Originally finished well before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, as Congress certified President Biden’s victory, Boehner rewrote portions of the book djt hands up mouth open Customto forcefully blame Trump for what he called “a low point for our country” that left him on the verge of tears.“Trump incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons, perpetuated by the b------- he’d been shoveling since he lost a fair election the previous November. He claimed voter fraud without any evidence,” Boehner writes.

He draws a direct line from anti-establishment lawmakers he dealt with last decade to Republicans in Congress who supported Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election: “The legislative terrorism that I’d witnessed as speaker had now encouraged actual terrorism.

 

allen west file

Allen West talks to the media on December 5, 2016, in New York City.

CNNCNN, K-File Investigation: Texas GOP chairman Allen West falsely says Texas could secede from the US: 'We could go back to being our own Republic,' Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck, April 9, 2021. Texas Republican Party chairman Allen West falsely suggested that Texas could secede from the United States and become an independent country, a CNN KFile review of his comments in recent months shows.

In radio interviews after the 2020 presidential election, West suggested Texas could vote to again become a republic, as it was before joining the United States in 1845.

"This is something that was written into the Texas Constitution," the former congressman said in one late December radio broadcast. "Or it was promised to Texas when we became part of the United States of America-- that if we voted and decided, we could go back to being our own republic."

texas mapExperts, however, say that Texas cannot legally secede and leave the United States to become its own republic. The annexation resolution West is referring to stipulates that Texas could, in the future, choose to divide itself into five new states, not divide itself from the US and declare independence. West mistook the congressional annexation resolution that made Texas a state for the Texas constitution.

Texas does have a history of secession. In 1861, Texas voted in favor of secession and later left the Union to join the Confederate States of America, setting the stage for the American Civil War. After the Confederacy lost the war, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas had remained a state, despite joining the Confederate States of America in an act of rebellion for four years, and that any acts ratified by the Confederate-era state legislature were "absolutely null." Texas eventually rejoined the Union in 1870.

republican elephant logoIn the December broadcast, West added that he supported a bill that would soon be introduced in the Texas state house in January, which would create a nonbinding referendum election on whether Texans should secede.

The bill, which has little chance of passing, would allow for a vote on whether the state could form a committee to develop a long-term plan to secede.

"I do support the will of the people to be heard and allow the people to vote on this," said West in the same December interview. "But I will tell you my official position is that I want Texas to lead, not so much secede."

West's comments on secession come as he repeatedly and baselessly questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and pushed debunked claims of massive voting fraud, including the lie that Dominion Voting Software changed votes. Following President Joe Biden's election, West has claimed the US is in an "ideological Civil War" and agreed with a radio host who suggested that an actual civil war would be "worth it."

He argued Republican states can band together to nullify laws passed by Congress they don't believe are constitutional.

After the Supreme Court rejected a Texas lawsuit to overturn the 2020 election, West suggested that "perhaps law-abiding states should band together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution."

While West denied that he called for secession -- and accused his critics of advocating for secession -- he has left the door open to Texas secession beyond supporting a referendum election.

"Truthfully, I would rather Texas lead than secede -- if the moment does come when things have gone so bad -- but I don't think we're going to get to that point," he told an audience in January.

West said the US is in an 'ideological civil war'

Speaking on the Truth and Liberty broadcast on January 4 --two days before the Capitol insurrection which would leave five people dead--West said the US was already engaged in an "ideological civil war."

"I heard one person say, 'but man, this can cause us a civil war,'" the host, Andrew Wommack, argued. "And the other person says, 'well, we've already fought one. Was it worth it? Was it worth it to free the slaves? "Is it worth it to save our Constitution?' You can't judge what's right. Based on how other people are going to respond. You just have to do what's right. And face the consequences."

"No, you're, you're absolutely right," West responded. "And again, that is the mentality that the left has. The left is banking on the fact that they're afraid to do it. Because they, they know that we'll go into the streets and we'll do all of these different things. But again, we're already in an ideological civil war, whether you want it or not."

"When you look at what has happened out in Portland, guess what, they've been rioting, they've been tearing up neighborhoods," he added. "If you look at Inauguration Day of 2017, they were in Washington, DC burning up cars and rioting. We should have stopped it then. So either we stop it now, or it's going to be like a cancer that metastasizes, and eventually it'll kill the host."

In at least one interview in November, West pushed the baseless conspiracy that Dominion Voting Systems changed votes to ensure a Biden victory. Dominion Voting Systems denies this and has sued Fox News, Rudy Giuliani and attorney Sidney Powell for pushing falsehoods about voting fraud in the election.

"I think we're also going to finally get the evidence," West said when speaking on Dominion. "And the understanding is that there were states, there were votes that were, tampered with affected, shifted, changed, whatever you want to call it

West said that states don't need to follow laws they deem unconstitutional

In other interviews, West contended that states could choose not to follow executive orders or even federal laws they deem unconstitutional.

"I think it was North or South Dakota, this constitutional nullification," West said in February 2021. "Because we have to have state legislatures that say, look, if you are signing executive orders that are not constitutionally sound, we're not obligated. We're not going to follow these things. So we want you to go through the right process."

"We want you to establish laws, but even still, if there are laws that you're looking to implement...which would undermine our Second Amendment......would nationalize elections under the control of the federal government," he said. "We don't want those things to happen."

In March, the North Dakota State House passed a resolution saying the state would only follow laws they deemed constitutional. In February, the South Dakota House introduced a bill saying the state could nullify executive orders.

"I think that we do have that power within our hands, to just nullify a lot of these things," West added, saying Republican states could form together to nullify laws. "And that sends a powerful message back."

 

sidney powell rudy giuliani

Trump attorneys Sidney Powell, right, and Rudy Giuliani failed to support with evidence their claims that last November's elections fraudulently named Democrat Joe Biden as the winner, with Trump's allies losing all of more than 60 lawsuits with that claim and failing to sustain it either in federal, state and local proceedings.

Palmer Report, Opinion: New trouble for Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, James Sullivan, April 9, 2021. Sidney Powell made a name for herself last year, in a rather unflattering way, as she mounted a challenge to Donald Trump’s election loss and made a series of truly insane claims about the 2020 election being stolen, like the election being rigged by a Venezuelan dictator who’s been dead since 2013.

After the votes were finally certified and Powell faced a massive $1.3 billion lawsuit against Dominion voting systems, she suddenly changed her tune and claimed that no reasonable person would actually take her nonsense seriously, so her comments couldn’t be considered defamatory.

bill palmer report logo headerNow, she’s facing a whole other world of problems – and might be wishing she had a better answer – or not made the outlandish claims in the first place. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is now using Powell’s preposterous argument to call for sanctions against her in court, michigan mapalong with three other attorneys, for filing frivolous lawsuits.

Unfortunately, Powell wants to have it both ways – even while gaslighting about the election being stolen, she claimed in February to have verifiable evidence to back up her claims against Dominion. She doesn’t want to be sued, but she doesn’t want to be disbarred either, a likely outcome for this particular situation.

It’s hardly a coincidence that we’re seeing more and more of Trump’s people bogged down with serious legal issues, right around the time he’s facing his own – and this will likely make it even harder for him to find a reputable legal team to face his own problems.

washington post logoWashington Post, Manhattan district attorney seizes evidence from Trump executive’s former daughter-in-law, Shayna Jacobs and David A. Fahrenthold, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). The move by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. appears to be the latest sign that Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg has become a key focus of the criminal probe into Donald Trump’s financial dealings.

Investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, acting on a grand jury subpoena, took possession of financial records Thursday morning from the apartment of Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in-law of a top Trump Organization officer.

allen weisselberg croppedJennifer Weisselberg was married to Barry Weisselberg — the son of Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, right, — from 2004 to 2018. She has previously said that she had seven boxes of financial records from both her ex-husband and his father, some of which were obtained through divorce litigation. On Thursday, she loaded three boxes and a laptop computer onto a valet cart and wheeled them from her building to a black Jeep with dark-tinted windows that was waiting outside.

In Trump probe, Manhattan district attorney puts pressure on his longtime chief financial officer

The move by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. appears to be the latest sign that Allen Weisselberg, the company’s highest-ranking corporate officer who is not a member of the Trump family, is a key focus of the ongoing criminal probe into former president Donald Trump’s financial dealings.

The subpoena, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, ordered Jennifer Weisselberg to produce all of the records she possesses for her ex-husband’s bank accounts and credit cards plus his statements of net worth and tax filings. Barry Weisselberg is a Trump Organization employee and manages an ice rink for the company in Manhattan’s Central Park. The subpoena asks specifically for records related to the Trump Organization and Wollman Rink.

“My knowledge of the documents and my voice connect the flow of money from various banks and from personal finances that bleed directly into the Trump Organization,” she said in an interview Thursday. Investigators, she added, now have her ex-husband’s 2019 and 2020 statements of net worth, his tax returns and copies of Wollman Rink checks from private events that she claims were deposited incorrectly.

She has said previously that the documents that were in her possession showed transactions in bank accounts controlled by Barry and Allen Weisselberg jointly.

Manhattan prosecutor hires forensic accounting experts as Trump criminal probe escalates

Vance (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) — running parallel investigations — have inquired about whether Allen Weisselberg or his son received untaxed benefits from the Trump Organization. Jennifer Weisselberg has previously said, for example, that her family received free use of Trump Organization apartments in Manhattan. Tax experts say that, in some instances, free housing must be counted as “income” for tax purposes. Jennifer Weisselberg has said it was not in this case.

“Jennifer is committed to cooperating with prosecutors, and turning over any documents in her possession that might be helpful,” said Duncan Levin, an attorney for Jennifer Weisselberg. A former prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, Levin has also represented Harvey Weinstein and Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman. “At this point,” he added, “she’s given them everything they’ve asked for. But we’re continuing to review documents, and may have supplemental documents to give” later.

April 8

 

Probes Of Trump Associates

 Eric Lipman

Eric Lipman, general counsel for the Florida Elections Commission, speaks during a 2019 meeting of the board. His mugshot did not appear in the Sheriff’s Office’s daily booking report because of a Sunshine Law exemption involving certain current or former state agency investigators and employees.

Tallahassee Democrat, Florida Elections Commission general counsel arrested on child porn charges, Jeff Burlew, April 8, 2021. The top lawyer for the Florida commission that investigates and prosecutes election law violations is facing charges of possession of child pornography.

Eric M. Lipman, general counsel for the Florida Elections Commission, was arrested Wednesday on 11 counts of the crime. He was taken to the Leon County Detention Center and later released.

The Leon County Sheriff’s Office announced his arrest Wednesday but did not mention his occupation and would not confirm it when asked, citing Sunshine Law exemptions. However, Tim Vaccaro, executive director of the commission, acknowledged the arrest in an email to the Tallahassee Democrat.

"The commission is fully cooperating with law enforcement’s investigation," Vaccaro said. "The employee has been placed on administrative leave pending further information."

The Sheriff’s Office’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force got a tip Feb. 24 from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children about child pornography that was transmitted through a Yahoo email account, according to court records.

That touched off a six-week investigation, culminating in the execution of a search warrant Wednesday at his home on Benchmark Trace. Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations assisted deputies at the scene, seizing personal and work computers and his iPhone.

Investigators obtained 19 files allegedly sent by Lipman’s email account and confirmed that each one contained child sexual abuse material, according to the arrest report.

They also found a number of internet searches on his work laptop involving child sexual abuse, pedophiles and children between the ages of 3 and 5, the report says.

Lipman, 59, agreed to speak with detectives, saying he understood his right to remain silent.

“Lipman confirmed the suspect email account belonged to him at the time of the incident, but refused to answer any further questions related to the email, or anything else related to the search warrant related material,” the report says.

He was put in double handcuffs and taken to the county jail. Leon County Judge Augustus Aikens placed him on pretrial release Thursday during his first court appearance.

Aikens ordered him to keep away from places where minors gather and to stay off the internet other than for matters involving work or his criminal case.

Lipman, a 59-year old Boston native well-known in Tallahassee legal circles, began working for the commission in 2001 as assistant general counsel, according to his online bio, which was later scrubbed from the agency's website. He earns $85,444 a year.

Before that, he worked as a senior attorney with the Florida Department of Children and Families in Leon, Wakulla and Franklin counties.

He also served as an officer with the Capital Soccer Association, a nonprofit soccer league for boys and girls ages 4 to 17, according to Florida corporate filings.

Lipman earned his law degree at the University of Miami School of Law and was admitted to the Nevada bar in 1991 and the Florida Bar in 1992. The Florida Bar confirmed it opened a case against Lipman following his arrest.

 

Probes Of Trump Associates

 matt gaetz billboard mad dog pac

Daily Mail, Punchy billboard appears overnight in Matt Gaetz's home state of Florida as he denies sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl, Ross Ibbetson, April 8, 2021. Gaetz, 38, is being investigated by the Department of Justice over allegations he had sex with a 17-year-old girl.

DoJ is also probing separate claims that Gaetz may have broken federal sex trafficking laws and been involved in a scheme to recruit and pay women for sex
The billboard in Crestview, a city in northeast Florida, was paid for by Mad Dog PAC, which says on its website that it was founded to 'Fight Fascism. Stop Trump'
It features a black and white photo of the embattled congressman with the striking text: 'Matt Gaetz wants to "date" your child'

washington post logoWashington Post, Gaetz associate likely to strike plea deal with prosecutors in sex trafficking case, Barbara Liston and Matt Zapotosky, An associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) who had been charged with sex trafficking of a minor and was suspected of connecting the congressmen to women with whom he could have sex is in plea negotiations to resolve the allegations against him, according to his lawyer and a prosecutor on the case, a potentially ominous sign for Gaetz if the associate ultimately cooperates with prosecutors in a bid for leniency.

joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorJoel Greenberg, right, the former tax collector for Seminole County, Fla., had first been charged last summer in a bare-bones indictment that prosecutors repeatedly superseded to add charges of sex trafficking of a minor, stealing from the tax office and even trying to use fraud to get covid-19 relief money while out on bond. In the course of the investigation into his conduct, people familiar with the matter have said, federal authorities came across evidence that Gaetz might have committed a crime and launched a separate investigation into him.

At a status conference in the case Thursday, federal prosecutor Roger Handberg told a judge he expected the case to end in a plea, though negotiations are ongoing. Fritz Scheller, an attorney for Greenberg, asked the judge to set a deadline of May 15 for the two sides to either reach a deal, or move toward a trial in the summer.

It was not immediately clear how far the negotiations had gotten, or to what extent a plea agreement would require Greenberg to cooperate with investigators. If matt gaetz officialprosecutors were to get Greenberg on their side as a cooperator, it is possible he could help bolster the case against Gaetz, a higher-profile target. A person who pleads guilty in a criminal case can often lessen their potential penalty by providing information that might be helpful to investigators in other matters.

Gaetz, left, known for his fierce allegiance to former president Donald Trump, would boast to people in Florida politics that he met women through Greenberg, and he also showed them videos on his phone of naked or topless women on multiple occasions, including at parties with Greenberg, people familiar with the matter have said.

Greenberg had been a colorful political player in Seminole County, where he unseated a longtime incumbent in the race for tax collector, won a political battle to allow his deputies to carry guns on the job and flaunted his connections to prominent Republicans.

A 2019 photograph that Greenberg posted on Twitter shows him with Gaetz at the White House. He also posted a picture in 2017 of him with Gaetz and Roger Stone, another well-known Trump political ally.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: WMR's scoop on Gaetz's sex trafficking to Bahamas confirmed, Wayne Madsen (left, author of 19 books, former Navy intelligence officer), April 8, 2021. WMR's April 1 report wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallhas been confirmed that Republican U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida is under investigation for trafficking at least one underage girl to the Bahamas.

Our report on Gaetz and his friend, indicted and jailed former Tax Collector of Seminole County Joel Greenberg, revealed that Greenberg and Gaetz trafficked underage girls across state and international lines. Our report was: "WMR has been told by knowledgeable sources that one international destination was the Bahamas."

Recent reports state that Gaetz went to the Bahamas at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 courtesy of Dr. Jason Pirozzolo, the founder of the American wayne madesen report logoMedical Marijuana Physicians Association (AMMPA). Gaetz and Roger Stone, the latter never failing to be involved in a caper involving sexual misconduct, spoke at a medical marijuana conference on October 6, 2017 at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista.

Greenberg, the then-Seminole County Tax Collector, also attended the conference. Gaetz and Stone followed their speeches at the conference with appearances at a Gaetz campaign fundraising event. Greenberg also attended the Gaetz fundraiser. Pirozzolo donated at least $2000 to Gaetz's 2016 and 2018 congressional campaigns.

Pirozzolo, according to recent reports, paid for female "escorts" to travel to the Bahamas with Gaetz and Greenberg. Pirozzolo also reportedly picked up the tab for hotel and air fare expenses for Gaetz and the escorts. The federal Mann Act of 1910 makes it a felony to "engage in interstate or foreign commerce transport of any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose."

ny times logoNew York Times, Another aide to Matt Gaetz is said to have quit amid an intensifying Justice Department investigation, Nicholas Fandos and Catie Edmondson, April 8, 2021. A second senior aide to Representative Matt Gaetz quit amid a widening Justice Department inquiry. A second senior aide to Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, abruptly quit in recent days as the congressman tries to fend off a Justice Department sex trafficking investigation and mounting public scrutiny, according to three people familiar with the decision.

The aide, Devin Murphy, resigned as Mr. Gaetz’s legislative director on Friday. He told associates that he was interested in writing bills, not working at TMZ — equating the work that Mr. Gaetz’s aides were now handling to the tabloid publication, according to one of the people, who all asked not to be identified discussing a sensitive personnel matter.

His departure last week came hours after Mr. Gaetz’s communications director, Luke Ball, also resigned. They were among the most senior members of the congressman’s staff in Washington and their exits suggest that even as he vows to remain in the House, Mr. Gaetz may be facing a hollowing-out of his support team.

Mr. Murphy, who had worked for Mr. Gaetz since he came to Congress in 2017, declined to comment on Thursday, but his LinkedIn page recorded that he left his position this month. The congressman’s office also declined to comment. One of the people who confirmed Mr. Murphy’s departure said the parting had not been contentious.

Mr. Gaetz faced another setback on Thursday when lawyers for the government and a key ally ensnared in the scandal, Joel Greenberg, said in court that he was likely to plead guilty, indicating he could cooperate with investigators. The Justice Department is scrutinizing whether Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Gaetz ran afoul of federal sex trafficking laws by paying women for sex and having sex with a 17-year-old girl in exchange for something of value.

With few outside allies coming to his defense, Mr. Gaetz’s office issued a statement on Thursday from women who work for him extolling his respect for them. It was signed simply “The Women of the Office of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz,” without any named signatories.

“Congressman Gaetz has always been a principled and morally grounded leader,” it said. “At no time has any one of us experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect. No hint of impropriety. No ounce of untruthfulness.”

Citing media reports about the Justice Department inquiry, the statement said the women “uniformly reject these allegations as false.”

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Six Compelling Pieces of Evidence Suggesting Matt Gaetz Was Concerned About Insurrection Planning, Not Sex Trafficking, seth abramson headshotWhen He Sought a Blanket Pardon From Trump, Seth Abramson, left, April 7, 2021. The NYT's theory of Gaetz's unprecedented proposal—taken, the paper concedes, from "Trump associates"—doesn't add up.

seth abramson proof logoAnd it may hide Gaetz's darker motives.Yesterday (April 6), the New York Times issued a stunning report alleging that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), arguably former president Donald Trump’s most sycophantic congressional ally, asked the then-president for an unprecedented “blanket pardon” in the waning days of the Trump presidency. But behind this excellent reporting by the Times lies a significant journalistic error.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republican Adam Kinzinger stomps on Matt Gaetz, Bill Palmer, April 8, 2021. If the Republican Party were still functioning on any level, it would have called on Congressman Matt Gaetz to resign last week, so it could argue to voters in the middle that it took swift action against him. Instead the House Republican leadership has spent the past week hemming and hawing and trying to pretend Gaetz didn’t exist. Now that the details of the scandal have gotten even uglier, the GOP has missed its opportunity to score any points.

bill palmer report logo headerBut even as the Republican leadership continues to act like none of this is happening, House Republican Adam Kinzinger is now calling for adam kinzinger headshotMatt Gaetz to resign. Kinzinger is notable in that he also voted to impeach Trump, and has taken other stands against his party.

We’re not surprised that Kinzinger, right, is doing this; he appears to have decided awhile ago that he’s just going to do whatever he wants, and he doesn’t care what Republican leadership thinks of him. But it’s truly embarrassing for the Republican Party that Kinzinger is calling for Matt Gaetz’s ouster before anyone in the Republican leadership is.

washington post logoWashington Post, Manhattan district attorney seizes evidence from Trump executive’s former daughter-in-law, Shayna Jacobs and David A. Fahrenthold, April 8, 2021. The move by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. appears to be the latest sign that Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg has become a key focus of the criminal probe into Donald Trump’s financial dealings.

Investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, acting on a grand jury subpoena, took possession of financial records Thursday morning from the apartment of Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in-law of a top Trump Organization officer.

allen weisselberg croppedJennifer Weisselberg was married to Barry Weisselberg — the son of Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, right, — from 2004 to 2018. She has previously said that she had seven boxes of financial records from both her ex-husband and his father, some of which were obtained through divorce litigation. On Thursday, she loaded three boxes and a laptop computer onto a valet cart and wheeled them from her building to a black Jeep with dark-tinted windows that was waiting outside.

In Trump probe, Manhattan district attorney puts pressure on his longtime chief financial officer

The move by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. appears to be the latest sign that Allen Weisselberg, the company’s highest-ranking corporate officer who is not a member of the Trump family, is a key focus of the ongoing criminal probe into former president Donald Trump’s financial dealings.

The subpoena, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, ordered Jennifer Weisselberg to produce all of the records she possesses for her ex-husband’s bank accounts and credit cards plus his statements of net worth and tax filings. Barry Weisselberg is a Trump Organization employee and manages an ice rink for the company in Manhattan’s Central Park. The subpoena asks specifically for records related to the Trump Organization and Wollman Rink.

“My knowledge of the documents and my voice connect the flow of money from various banks and from personal finances that bleed directly into the Trump Organization,” she said in an interview Thursday. Investigators, she added, now have her ex-husband’s 2019 and 2020 statements of net worth, his tax returns and copies of Wollman Rink checks from private events that she claims were deposited incorrectly.

She has said previously that the documents that were in her possession showed transactions in bank accounts controlled by Barry and Allen Weisselberg jointly.

Manhattan prosecutor hires forensic accounting experts as Trump criminal probe escalates

Vance (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) — running parallel investigations — have inquired about whether Allen Weisselberg or his son received untaxed benefits from the Trump Organization. Jennifer Weisselberg has previously said, for example, that her family received free use of Trump Organization apartments in Manhattan. Tax experts say that, in some instances, free housing must be counted as “income” for tax purposes. Jennifer Weisselberg has said it was not in this case.

“Jennifer is committed to cooperating with prosecutors, and turning over any documents in her possession that might be helpful,” said Duncan Levin, an attorney for Jennifer Weisselberg. A former prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, Levin has also represented Harvey Weinstein and Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman. “At this point,” he added, “she’s given them everything they’ve asked for. But we’re continuing to review documents, and may have supplemental documents to give” later.

 

U.S. Political Tactics, Scandal

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is flanked by two visitors to his office in 2018, Cesaire McPherson at left in the photo and a friend. Merrill described them in a Facebook caption he posted as

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is flanked by two visitors to his office in 2018, Cesaire McPherson at left in the photo and a friend. Merrill described them in a Facebook caption he posted as "“They are committed to supporting candidates who support families first!” McPherson is shown also at right below in a Facebook photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Confronted with leaked phone call, Alabama Republican John Merrill admits to affair, drops Senate bid, Katie Shepherd, April 8, 2021. On Wednesday morning, Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill went on a local conservative radio show to deny a story posted by a right-wing blog claiming he had an affair with a legal assistant, who also accused him of using racist language. The story was a false smear designed to end his bid for U.S. Senate, he said.

“People are attempting to use this to either advance the candidacy of other people, or they are doing it primarily to harm me and my family,” he said on the radio. cesaire mcpherson facebook“It’s very frustrating and very sad.”

Hours later, when an AL.com reporter confronted him with a recording of an explicit phone call between Merrill and the woman, the politician changed his story. Merrill acknowledged the affair — and said that he would drop his plans to run for Senate.

“It’s clear that I had an inappropriate relationship with her, and it is not something that I am proud of or something that is something that — I’m very disappointed in myself,” Merrill, who is married with two children, told AL.com. “I’m also disappointed that I allowed my family to be embarrassed by this action. And it’s something that I certainly will always regret because of the pain that it has caused my family.”

washington post logoWashington Post, National Republican Congressional Committee to donors: Give every month or we’ll report you to Trump, Colby Itkowitz, April 8, 2021 (print ed.). The NRCC threatened donors that it will tell former president Donald Trump they are defectors if they opt out of recurring donations to the campaign arm for the House GOP.

 

April 7

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Political Scandal, Tactics

 

 

Top Stories

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Six Compelling Pieces of Evidence Suggesting Matt Gaetz Was Concerned About Insurrection Planning, Not Sex Trafficking, seth abramson headshotWhen He Sought a Blanket Pardon From Trump, Seth Abramson, left, April 7, 2021. The NYT's theory of Gaetz's unprecedented proposal—taken, the paper concedes, from "Trump associates"—doesn't add up. And it may hide Gaetz's darker motives.

seth abramson proof logoYesterday the New York Times issued a stunning report alleging that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), arguably former president Donald Trump’s most sycophantic congressional ally, asked the then-president for an unprecedented “blanket pardon” in the waning days of the Trump presidency. But behind this excellent reporting by the Times lies a significant journalistic error.

See related stories below.

ny times logoNew York Times, Expert Witness Says Chauvin’s ‘Force Was Excessive,’ Will Wright, April 7, 2021 (print ed.). Prosecution witnesses said Derek Chauvin’s restraint of George Floyd did not follow his training or standard police tactics.Tuesday’s proceedings also gave the former Minneapolis police officer’s defense team some potential openings. Read key takeaways from the trial.

Witnesses called by the prosecution in the Derek Chauvin trial provided a deeper look at police policies on the use of force on Tuesday and gave the former Minneapolis police officer’s defense team some potential openings.

Mr. Chauvin’s defense, led by attorney Eric J. Nelson, tried to bolster its argument that the crowd that formed on the sidewalk during George Floyd’s arrest might have made it more difficult for Mr. Chauvin to render medical aid or to move his knee, which he held on Mr. Floyd for more than nine minutes. See more coverage below.

 

U.S. Political Scandal, Tactics

ny times logoNew York Times, Matt Gaetz, Loyal to Trump, Is Said to Have Sought a Blanket Pardon, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos, April 7, 2021 (print ed.). The congressman was at the time under investigation over whether he violated sex trafficking laws, though it was unclear what he knew of the inquiry.

matt gaetz officialRepresentative Matt Gaetz, right, Republican of Florida, was one of President Donald J. Trump’s most vocal allies during his term, publicly pledging loyalty and even signing a letter nominating the president for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the final weeks of Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Gaetz sought something in return. He privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people told of the discussions.

Around that time, Mr. Gaetz was also publicly calling for broad pardons from Mr. Trump to thwart what he termed the “bloodlust” of their political opponents. But Justice Department investigators had begun questioning Mr. Gaetz’s associates about his conduct, including whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that violated sex trafficking laws, in an inquiry that grew out of the case of an indicted associate in Florida.

It was unclear whether Mr. Gaetz or the White House knew at the time about the inquiry, or who else he sought pardons for. Mr. Gaetz did not tell White House aides that he was under investigation for potential sex trafficking violations when he made the request. But top White House lawyers and officials viewed the request for a pre-emptive pardon as a nonstarter that would set a bad precedent, the people said.

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: Gaetz's Florida on-line pimping service resembles that of Wikipedia founder, Wayne Madsen, left, April 7, 2021. The on-line wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallpimping operation run by U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and jailed former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg resembles one wayne madesen report logothat was operated by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales in the Tampa Bay area.

As WMR reported in 2014, Jimmy Wales, before his involvement with Wikipedia, provided on-line porn services as the CEO of Bomis, a now-defunct Internet company.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just destroyed another one of his top loyalists, Bill Palmer, right, April 7, 2021. If you’re living a life of (alleged) crime, the smart move bill palmeris to avoid the national spotlight. After all, the spotlight tends to invite scrutiny, and pretty soon your dirty secrets are no longer secret. Donald Trump has long been the rare exception to that rule, as he’s committed his decades of financial crimes as loudly as possible. That’s led a number of other lowlifes to believe they could also bask in the spotlight with impunity, and that it would somehow work out for them, and that Trump would protect them.

bill palmer report logo headerPeople like Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, and Roger Stone (below at left) always had the sense to carry out their corrupt schemes from the relative shadows, until Trump leapt into the political spotlight and convinced them to also become household names. They didn’t last long. Sure, Trump pardoned them in the end. But Bannon and Stone are still each on a path to prison, because Trump’s willingness roger stone headshotand ability to protect them was always overstated.

This brings us to Matt Gaetz. He still says he’s innocent on all counts. But if even half the allegations against him are true, then he’s led a truly horrifying life, committing the most depraved of crimes. It was one thing for him to become a back bencher member of Congress from a region that no one cared about, in a district that his daddy controlled. But for him to turn around and make himself a household name for the purpose of defending Donald Trump… it was just unbelievably stupid. Yet this is the kind of witting or unwitting self immolation that Trump encourages from his most loyal people.

Now the New York Times says that when Matt Gaetz asked Trump for a last minute blanket pardon without specifying what the alleged crimes even were, Trump rebuffed him. This means that if Gaetz is guilty of these heinous crimes, then his life is now over, because he’ll spend the rest of it behind bars. By encouraging Gaetz to seek the spotlight, and then declining to get him off the hook, Trump destroyed Gaetz’s life. Gaetz more than deserves it. But it’s remarkable that people like Gaetz never did figure out that when it came to Trump’s con games, they were always the mark.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gaetz fought revenge porn bill, saying ex-lovers can use photos as they see fit, sponsor says, Brittany Shammas, April 7, 2021 (print ed.). When Florida legislators passed a bill aimed at preventing people from sharing sexually explicit photos of their ex-partners online, then-state Rep. Matt Gaetz cast one of just two House votes against it.

Six years later, with the now-congressman accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and sharing photographs of nude women with fellow lawmakers, the sponsor of the Florida legislation says Gaetz opposed it because he believed recipients of such images could use them however they wanted.

Tom Goodson, a Republican who retired from the Florida state House in 2018, told the Orlando Sentinel on Monday that Gaetz was the leading opponent of the nonconsensual pornography bill he spent years trying to pass. He described a meeting in which Gaetz said that if a person gives an intimate photo to a romantic partner, the image becomes the property of the recipient.

Raw Story, 'We're MAGA -- and we’re here to take over': South Carolina GOP ripped apart as Trump loyalists purge longtime members, Tom Boggioni, April 7, 2021.  According to a report from the Daily Beast, there is a coordinated effort in South Carolina to take over the local Republican precincts by newcomers whose main allegiance is to former president Donald Trump.

As the Beast's Sam Brodey writes, "Since Trump's defeat and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the MAGA faithful around the country have been restless. State-level activists have led the charge nationally in loudly criticizing and plotting against any Republican perceived to be an enemy of the Trump movement, from members of Congress who voted to impeach the ex-president to local officials seen as being weak or soft when it counted."

According to Lenna Smith, a 30-year veteran in Republican politics in the state, a recent meeting to hold the annual board election was flooded with newcomers she had never seen before, with the Beast reporting, "what happened next was totally out of her control. When it came time to elect the precinct's president for the coming year, one of the newcomers nominated a fellow newcomer, but not a single person nominated Smith. Stunned, she had to nominate herself...When it came time to vote, the outcome was a foregone conclusion: Smith had lost the president position she'd held for years. For the vote on the next most senior office, the same thing happened, and then the next, until there were no more offices left. Smith had been totally shut out."

What Smith experienced was not a one-off, with the report noting similar incidents happening across the state.

According to Suzette Jordan, a GOP activist in Greenville for decades, longtime Republicans with political experience are being displaced at a startling pace and she worries about where the local party is going.

"It's frustrating to think the party may be turned over to people who have different goals from what we've had for years. Their goal is to replace us all. They may succeed," she claimed before adding that she was an elector who cast her vote for Trump. "We've been accused of being establishment, being not MAGA enough, whatever that means. Afterward, a lady stepped up and said, 'Congratulations on being an elector!' It was kind of ironic to me. None of that mattered."

 donald trump money palmer report Custom

wsj logoWall Street Journal, Trump Organization Hires Criminal Defense Lawyer, Corinne Rampey and Rebecca Davis O'Brien, Updated April 7, 2021. Ronald Fischetti will represent the firm in Manhattan district attorney’s probe into former president’s business dealings. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office is examining financial transactions at Trump properties in Manhattan, including the flagship Trump Tower.

The Trump Organization has hired Ronald Fischetti, an experienced New York criminal-defense attorney, to represent it in Manhattan prosecutors’ investigation into the business dealings of the former president and his company.

cy vance resized djtMr. Fischetti, 84 years old, is a former law partner of Mark Pomerantz, the former federal prosecutor working on the investigation for the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (shown at far right in file photos along with Trump).

Mr. Pomerantz was sworn in as a special assistant district attorney in February and is now on leave from law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

“I am so pleased that Ron has been added to the team,” said Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the Trump Organization. “He brings extraordinary experience, a depth of knowledge and wisdom that is invaluable and that we so appreciate.”

The Trump Organization retained Mr. Fischetti earlier this week, Mr. Fischetti confirmed. “I’m delighted that I’m going to be on the defense of this,” he said

 

April 6

U.S. Political Scandal, Tactics

 

U.S. Political Scandal, Tactics

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans ramp up attacks on corporations over Georgia voting law, threaten ‘consequences,’ Marianna Sotomayor and Todd C. Frankel, April 6, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans are attacking corporations over their decision to condemn the controversial Georgia voting law, part of the party’s embrace of the populism espoused by President Donald Trump even as it creates tensions with traditional allies in the business community.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday accused corporations of siding with Democrats’ portrayal of the law as the new Jim Crow, which he called an attempt to “mislead and bully the American people.” He argued that it would expand, not restrict, voter access to the polls, and his statement included a threat of unspecified “serious consequences” if companies continued to stand opposite Republicans on a variety of issues.

republican elephant logo“From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government,” McConnell said in his statement. “Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) made similar remarks in questioning why Republicans should pay attention to companies on policy issues after they embrace positions at odds with the party.

“Why are we still listening to these woke corporate hypocrites on taxes, regulations & antitrust?” he tweeted Friday.

The acrimony between Republicans and large companies over Georgia underscores the party’s increasingly fraying relationship with corporate America over social and cultural issues as GOP leaders grapple with the direction of the party after the 2020 election. The future of that relationship is complicated by the fact that Republicans continue to support economic policies advocated by the private sector on taxes and regulations, making it unclear what form of retribution leaders could pursue.

For instance, McConnell and other Republicans have said that a big reason they oppose President Biden’s infrastructure proposal unveiled last week is because the White House has proposed paying for the package by raising corporate tax rates.

But beyond policy, the attacks on corporate America could prove useful to Republicans looking to energize the party’s base of supporters who embraced Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric and focus on grievances over how the country is changing culturally and demographically.

Republicans “are signaling to their base that this is a cultural war — and that they are martyrs in the culture war,” said Andra Gillespie, associate professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta.

Most of the reactions from politicians and die-hard partisans are not about trying to change minds, she said. Instead, they are reflecting the country’s political polarization.

“For Republicans, it’s a question of, do you follow through on these threats now that you’ve raised the bet?” she said. “Do you keep on going? Or do you stand down?”

The current fight focuses on the recently enacted voting overhaul in Georgia. Democrats contend it is an attempt by state Republicans to suppress the vote in minority communities and mount a partisan takeover of election administration by giving the legislature the power to name three seats on the five-member State Election Board, which is dominated by Republicans. GOP leaders have pushed back against the charges, arguing that the legislation will make it easier to cast a ballot by expanding voting hours, and they have accused Democrats, including Biden, of partisan-driven hyperbole.

major league baseball mlb logoThe outcry grew significantly after Major League Baseball on Friday announced that it is relocating the annual All-Star Game from the home of the Atlanta Braves because of the Georgia law.

“Guess what I am doing today? Not watching baseball!!!!” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted Friday.

While most Republican attacks against the companies have so far been rhetorical, some in the party are taking action.

Georgia-based Delta is facing the loss of a $35 million jet fuel tax benefit after the state House voted to rescind it as payback for Bastian’s comments. Bastian’s statement came just days after Delta issued a statement that mostly praised the legislation. Delta is hanging on to the tax benefit for now because the legislature adjourned before the bill taking it away could be passed in the Senate.

Republicans in Congress are signaling support for South Carolina Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan’s move to draft legislation that would strip MLB of its antitrust exemption by arguing that baseball qualifies as interstate commerce. Duncan and 10 co-sponsors plan to introduce the “Teddy Roosevelt Fair Competition and Public Trust Act of 2021” next week when the House is back in session.

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: Third Florida GOP politician in Gaetz-Greenberg underage sex trafficking scheme ID'd? April 6, 2021. Gaetz sex scandal jeopardizes Ron DeSantis's political career.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dominion says ex-Michigan state senator’s election fraud claims ‘successfully duped thousands of people,’ Katie Shepherd, April 6, 2021 (print ed.). For months, former Michigan state senator Patrick Colbeck (R) has repeated baseless claims about mass fraud in the presidential election to state senators and pro-Trump crowds, falsely insinuating that rigged voting machines and bogus ballots swayed the results.

patrick colbeckNow, Colbeck, right, is the latest target in Dominion Voting Systems’ legal battle to combat claims by Republican allies of former president Donald Trump that the company says have damaged its reputation. Last week, Dominion demanded the onetime gubernatorial candidate retract his “demonstrably false claims” about the 2020 election results.

dominion voting systems“You have now taken your disinformation campaign on the road, touring Michigan,” said a letter sent to Colbeck by lawyers for the election machine company, the Detroit News reported. The letter demanded Colbeck retract statements “falsely blaming Dominion for stealing the election from former President Trump.”

Colbeck did not immediately return a request for comment late Sunday.

In recent weeks, Dominion has also sued Fox News for airing false statements made by guests on its shows, along with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who repeatedly made such claims on national TV.

Colbeck, an influential force in Michigan’s GOP, was first elected to the state senate in 2010 as a tea party candidate and served until 2019. He began casting doubt on the security of Michigan’s elections in the weeks before Election Day, penning an op-ed that suggested coronavirus precautions threatened election integrity and a letter to the editor arguing that “irregularities” in urban voting districts pointed to fraud.

Shortly after the election, in which President Biden won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, Colbeck filed an affidavit challenging the results in Wayne County. A judge dismissed his challenge on Nov. 13, saying the Republican had “no evidence” to support his claims that Democrats used the pandemic to obscure election fraud.

“His predilection to believe fraud was occurring undermines his credibility as a witness,” Wayne County Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny said in a ruling.

washington post logoWashington Post, A QAnon revelation suggests the truth of Q’s identity was right there all along, Drew Harwell and Craig Timberg, April 6, 2021 (print ed.). The extremist movement’s leader had purported to be a top-secret government operative. But a possible slip-up in a new documentary about QAnon suggests that Q was actually Ron Watkins, the longtime administrator of the 8kun message board.

The identity of Q, the supposed top-secret government operative and prophet of the extremist ideology QAnon, has for years been a fiercely debated mystery. But a possible slip-up in a new documentary suggests the answer was always the most obvious one: Ron Watkins, the longtime administrator of the message board 8kun, the conspiratorial movement’s online home.

Most major QAnon researchers have long speculated that Watkins had written many of the false and cryptic posts alleging that former president Donald Trump was waging war against an elite international cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. Watkins has long denied his involvement, saying he was merely a neutral backroom operator of the site and never a participant.

But in the Sunday finale for the HBO series “Q: Into the Storm,” filmmaker Cullen Hoback points to what he argues is a key piece of evidence that Watkins had lied about his role in the more than 4,000 messages Q had posted since 2017.

In a final scene, after Watkins talked about how he had shared baseless claims about voter fraud after Trump’s loss in the 2020 elections, he told Hoback: “It was basically three years of intelligence training, teaching normies how to do intelligence work. It was basically what I was doing anonymously before, but never as Q.”

To Hoback, it was an inadvertent admission that Watkins had actually been Q, crafting secret communiques and shaping the movement for “normies,” or normal people, to consume. But in the scene, Watkins smiled and cleared his throat, seeking to correct — or further muddy — the record: “Never as Q. I promise. I am not Q.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Hatch Act violations by Trump appointees are finally being punished, Bill Palmer, April 6, 2021. The Trump administration found a way to break virtually every anti-corruption law on the books, so it wasn’t surprising that Trump officials violated the Hatch Act on a regular basis. Nor was it surprising that these violations were never punished, even when internal watchdogs flagged the violations, because the Trump regime was never going to police itself.

bill palmer report logo headerSome folks on social media got carried away with the idea that the Hatch Act could somehow put people on trial or in prison, but as Palmer Report spent four years pointing out, the most severe punishment allowable under the Hatch Act was a monetary fine and loss of government employment. Still, the Trump regime was unwilling to even hand out those kinds of punishments to violators.

But with Donald Trump now gone, that’s all changed. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, a watchdog agency that deals with these kinds of violations, formally punished former HUD official Lynne Patton today, in the form of a thousand dollar fine and a four year ban from federal employment. This may not sound like much of a punishment, but again, it’s what the Hatch Act allows for – and now it’s finally being enforced.

Now that one Trump-era violation of the Hatch Act has been punished, we’re interested in seeing how many more such violations end up being punished. Numerous top level Trump White House officials committed Hatch Act violations in repeated fashion, so there are plenty of additional targets for punishment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The staggering scale of the Trump campaign’s opt-out fundraising scheme, Philip Bump, April 6, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) offered House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) some thoughts in a memo last month on how and why their party could pivot to being defenders of the working class. In it, Banks presented what he seemed to think was clear evidence that Republicans were already the choice of that group of voters.

“Certain occupations overwhelmingly supported President Trump in 2020,” the memo read, with the underlining in the original. “Of those who donated to a presidential campaign: 79% of mechanics donated to Trump and 21% gave to Biden; 60% of small business owners donated to Trump and 40% donated to Biden; and 59% of custodians donated to Trump while 41% gave to Biden.”

That’s interesting data, certainly, albeit subject to some obvious caveats to even casual observers. But it’s worth considering the assertions in light of a new report from the New York Times showing how the Trump campaign and its allies had used opt-out fundraising tactics to goose contributions.

The way it worked would be familiar to anyone who didn’t carefully consider the options in an online form. How many times have you ended up on some random email list because you neglected to uncheck some box on some website? That’s what the Trump campaign did, too, except instead of a “sign me up for your hourly newsletters,” the checkboxes focused on encouraging people to demonstrate their fervent support for former president Donald Trump — by making their one-time contribution a recurring one. As of writing, Trump’s old campaign website is still encouraging contributions and still using an opt-out checkbox to make contributions recurring by default.

So it is true that people who identified their occupations as “mechanic” often gave to Trump. There were about 6,200 contributions made to him or an affiliated political action committee (like the Republican Party or a joint fundraising committee) since January 2019, according to Federal Election Commission data, out of about 53,000 total. But there were also about 300 contributions from identified mechanics returned by Trump’s campaign or committees related to it (flagged as negative contributions in the FEC data). That’s a bit under 5 percent of the total.

We don’t know that these were all people frustrated by the opt-out chicanery; some might inadvertently have exceeded campaign contribution limits through their generosity. It was nonetheless exceptional. Of the contributions made by mechanics to non-Trump-affiliated entities, the percentage of returns was under one-tenth of 1 percent.

In total, about 90 percent of the contributions returned to self-identified mechanics since January 2020 were made to Trump-affiliated committees. Among those identified as “self-employed,” 91 percent. Among “custodians” and “janitors,” 82 percent. Over and over, money returned to individual donors heavily came from those who had given to Trump.

The scale here is really amazing. In November, the vast majority of reversed contributions reported to the FEC came from the Trump campaign.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has accelerated the Republican Party’s demise, Brutal Publicist, April 6, 2021. Some people attract talent. Donald Trump attracts scumbags. From his early career with his father in Queens, through his ties with the infamous Roy Cohn, and connections to the Genovese Crime family in Queens and the Gambino crime family in Manhattan, to his entanglements with Felix Sater and the Russian mobs in deals around the country, as well as his mob connections in his Atlantic City properties (where he reached a settlement with the federal government on over a hundred money-laundering charges), Trump has been linked to notorious shady characters. His campaign included Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, Cory Lewandowski, and “unofficially,” Roger Stone.

bill palmer report logo headerHis cabinet was similarly stocked with sleazebags. We’ve all seen the scandals involving Scott Pruitt, Alex Azar, Ryan Zinke, Tom Price, and Elaine Chao. Less publicized, but no less significant, is Wilbur Ross’ involvement with a money-laundering bank in Cyprus, which is probably why Trump picked him to head the Commerce Department.

Trump’s White House staff included such all-around low-lifes as Stephen Miller and his wife, Michael Flynn, Rob Porter, Jason Miller, Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kayleigh McEnany, and Mark Meadows. His lawyers promoting the Big Lie in courts included Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, Sydney Powell (briefly), and Lin Wood (unofficially).

And look who were (and many still are) Trump’s biggest supporters in Congress: Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, matt gaetz o CustomTommy Tuberville, Tom Cotton, John Kennedy, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Marsha Blackburn, Gym Jordan, Matt Gaetz (right), Louie Gohmert, Mo Brooks, and Devin Nunes. And before their defeats, Georgia Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

If you were to consciously make a list of the people you would definitely not trust to run our government, it would be difficult to come up with a more compelling list. Yet this is today’s Republican Party. Some predated Trump; after all, the Republican Party was loathsome before Trump came along. But he has certainly hastened their descent into the truly despicable. So when Matt Gaetz or some other Trumpster Republican becomes embroiled in a horrific scandal, our response should not be shock, but rather, “it was only a matter of time before something like this came out.”

Legal Schnauzer, Commentary: Tommy Gallion's amended complaint in gambling-related lawsuit against Del Marsh & Co. points to reporting that supports roger shuler outdoorsallegations of bribery, Roger Shuler, right, April 6, 2021. Individuals named in a gambling-related lawsuit have denied in press reports that bribery, or discussions of bribery, took place to give the Poarch Creek Indians monopolistic control over gaming in Alabama.

But an amended complaint, filed by Montgomery attorney Tommy Gallion, left, alleges that bribery, in fact, was a part of negotiations on the thomas gallionrecently defeated SB 214.

The amended complaint alleges that substitute bills (SB 319 and 320) also would protect certain entities -- at the behest of corrupt Alabama lawmakers, particularly State Sens. Del Marsh and Bobby Singleton -- while harming others, such as plaintiffs Age with Dignity Inc., OIC Dream Greene County, and Dream County Inc.

Finally, the amended complaint alleges at least one news outlet, Alabama Political Reporter (APR) has been paid to reverse its position on recent gaming bills -- from opposing them to favoring them. (The amended complaint is embedded at the end of this post.)

Gallion points to an APR article, under the headline "Marsh holds meeting with gaming interest day after Ivey calls for the Legislature to stand down on gaming," to allege that improper meetings did take place regarding SB 14. Writes APR Publisher Bill Britt in the article, dated Feb. 10, 2020:

Despite Gov. Kay Ivey’s call for the Legislature to give her “time to get the facts,” on a lottery and gaming bill before proceeding with legislation, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh summoned representatives of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians and two of the state’s dog tracks to sit down and discuss moving ahead on a proposed lottery and gaming bill.

A day after Ivey’s State of the State, Marsh (shown at right in a file photo)del marsh schnauzer, along with Senators Bobby Singleton and Steve Livingston, held a conference with Robbie McGhee, PCI’s Vice-chair, Lewis Benefield, who operates VictoryLand and the Birmingham Race Course, and Nat Winn from Greenetrack to try and reach an agreement among the three gaming entities.

Marsh, at the Wednesday meeting, informed those gathered that they needed to come up with a compromise on the gaming issue so that legislation could proceed with a constitutional amendment on a lottery and gaming package this session.

Participants in the closed-door meeting declined to speak with APR about the content of their discussions. However, those who have knowledge of the conversation did relay some of the details to APR.

According to those sources, the group discussed what a compromise might look like, what tax revenue the facilities would be allotted to the state and locations sought by PCI.

Reportedly, the discussions were generally cordial and productive while lawmakers were present, but that the tone changed dramatically once the lawmakers left the room.

Two sources with an understanding of events said that McGhee turned arrogantly defiant after the legislators left, telling the track owners that PCI didn’t need to compromise because they already have the votes necessary to pass their desired legislation.

josh moon resizedAPR reporter Josh Moon (right) wrote a highly critical article about the initial complaint (A lawsuit has been filed over the gambling bill. It is ridiculous), and Gallion hints in his amended complaint that was not by chance:

Moon has intentionally with malice interfered with the plaintiffs' lawsuit by publishing a false and libelous story in its state-wide publication titled "A lawsuit has been filed over gambling bill. It is ridiculous and there are no facts to back up the lawsuit." Moon is known as an inept and sloppy reporter, who hides behind his scurrilous and yellow-journalist publications by prefacing his articles as "Opinion." Moon obviously rushed to help the . . . promoters of SB 214 and failed to adhere to . . . checking the facts.

 

April 5

U.S. Political Scandals

 

DC Political Scandals

julie jenkins fancelli

seth abramson headshotProof via Substack: Investigation: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Awarded Vaccine Sites to Publix Just As Publix Heiress Julie Jenkins Fancelli (shown above) Was Funding the January 6 Trump Speech That Launched An Insurrection, Seth Abramson, left, April 5, 2021. The FBI will now have to determine if these two events were connected—as certainly the cast of characters involved in the two transactions was.

Palmer Report, Investigation: 60 Minutes just exposed Ron DeSantis, Bill Palmer, right, April 4, 2021. Even in an era with an unusually large number of corrupt Governors bill palmerin office around the nation, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis may be the most grotesquely corrupt of all. He’s massively incompetent. He behaves like a maniac at press conferences. He has a new scandal every few weeks. Now one of his deadliest scandals is coming home to roost.

bill palmer report logo headerEven as Democratic and Republican Governors around the nation established multiple ways to get the COVID vaccine distributed to residents as quickly as possible, Ron DeSantis cut an exclusive deal with the Publix grocery store chain, which was not set up to handle the proper volume of appointments.

ron desantis oWorse, DeSantis, right, prioritized vaccine doses for Publix stores in counties that voted for him in 2018. There is little doubt that Floridians died as a result of this stunt.

Palmer Report has been talking about the DeSantis vaccine scandal all year, as have various Florida newspapers. But tonight, 60 Minutes finally CBS News logotackled the scandal.

It turns out Publix made a six figure donation to DeSantis’ reelection campaign just weeks before he rolled out the exclusive vaccine deal. That means it wasn’t just a bad move, it was a corrupt one. Now that 60 Minutes has finally put a national spotlight on this scandal, DeSantis needs to be federally investigated for corruption and potential homicide, as there’s little doubt that Floridians died as a result of DeSantis’ corrupt delay of the vaccine rollout.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dominion says ex-Michigan state senator’s election fraud claims ‘successfully duped thousands of people,’ Katie Shepherd, April 5, 2021. For months, former Michigan state senator Patrick Colbeck (R) has repeated baseless claims about mass fraud in the presidential election to state senators and pro-Trump crowds, falsely insinuating that rigged voting machines and bogus ballots swayed the results.

Now, Colbeck is the latest target in Dominion Voting Systems’ legal battle to combat claims by Republican allies of former president Donald Trump that the company says have damaged its reputation. Last week, Dominion demanded the onetime gubernatorial candidate retract his “demonstrably false claims” about the 2020 election results.

dominion voting systems“You have now taken your disinformation campaign on the road, touring Michigan,” said a letter sent to Colbeck by lawyers for the election machine company, the Detroit News reported. The letter demanded Colbeck retract statements “falsely blaming Dominion for stealing the election from former President Trump.”

Colbeck did not immediately return a request for comment late Sunday.

In recent weeks, Dominion has also sued Fox News for airing false statements made by guests on its shows, along with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who repeatedly made such claims on national TV.

Colbeck, an influential force in Michigan’s GOP, was first elected to the state senate in 2010 as a tea party candidate and served until 2019. He began casting doubt on the security of Michigan’s elections in the weeks before Election Day, penning an op-ed that suggested coronavirus precautions threatened election integrity and a letter to the editor arguing that “irregularities” in urban voting districts pointed to fraud.

Shortly after the election, in which President Biden won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, Colbeck filed an affidavit challenging the results in Wayne County. A judge dismissed his challenge on Nov. 13, saying the Republican had “no evidence” to support his claims that Democrats used the pandemic to obscure election fraud.

“His predilection to believe fraud was occurring undermines his credibility as a witness,” Wayne County Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny said in a ruling.

ted lieu 300x207Palmer Report, Opinion: Ted Lieu rips Matt Gaetz to pieces, Bill Palmer, right, April 5, 2021. Matt Gaetz had one of his former staffers speak publicly today about having bill palmerbeen interviewed by the FBI. This was apparent attempt on Gaetz’s part at blowing up the criminal probe into his alleged sexual relationship with an underage girl. Gaetz isn’t nearly smart enough to figure out how to pull this off, and if anything, he’s more likely to get himself charged with obstruction.

bill palmer report logo headerBut it’s a reminder that when someone is being criminally investigated by the Department of Justice on ultra-serious charges, that person can’t be in a position to sabotage the investigation. Matt Gaetz isn’t just a sitting member of Congress, he sits on a committee that has oversight into the FBI probe into him.

Congresman Ted Lieu explained why this needs to immediately end: “I reiterate again that it’s a conflict of interest for a Member of Congress to sit on the congressional committee that has oversight over the FBI at the same time the FBI is actively investigating him. GOP Leader must remove Rep Gaetz from House Judiciary Committee immediately.”

There is no indication that House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is willing to make this kind of move against Matt Gaetz at this time. And with no clear timeframe for potential indictments against Gaetz, the House Democrats may end up needing to hold a vote to have Gaetz removed from committees.

The Democrats already did this to Marjorie Taylor Greene, even though she’s not a member of their party, so there is precedent. If Gaetz ends up being cleared, he can be reinstated to committees. And if he ends up indicted, he’ll have far bigger problems than committee assignments. So yeah, the House Democrats may once again need to clean up the House Republicans’ mess.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here comes Matt Gaetz’s week from hell, Bill Palmer, right, April 5, 2021. Federal criminal investigations tend to move glacially slowly in the bill palmername of thoroughness, and they tend to operate in secret for as long as they realistically can. Just because the media gets word of an ongoing federal investigation, it doesn’t mean that investigation is going to suddenly move any more quickly.

Because of that, there’s not necessarily any reason to expect that Matt Gaetz will be indicted and arrested this week or even this month. Unless the Feds suspect that Gaetz is on the verge of committing even more crimes, they’d rather take their time and build the kind of overwhelmingly detailed criminal case that can all but guarantee a conviction.

bill palmer report logo headerAll that said, Matt Gaetz is about to have a really bad week. Yes, it’ll be even worse for him than the devastatingly bad week that he just had. The thing about a federal criminal probe becoming public is that while it doesn’t necessarily force the Feds’ hand, it does tend to force the issue in terms of witnesses and people with evidence either going public or talking to the media.

We already saw some of this last week, with the New York Times getting ahold of receipts of digital cash payments that Gaetz allegedly paid in exchange for sex. Those receipts didn’t just get picked up by the wind and randomly land on a Times reporter’s desk. Someone involved in the Gaetz scandal, who had matt gaetz o Customaccess to those receipts, gave them to the Times.

We’re likely to see a lot more of that kind of thing this upcoming week. If Matt Gaetz, right, was indeed brazen and careless enough to leave a cash app trail, then he surely left a mountain of transactional evidence against himself out there. The people who have that kind of evidence will continue turning it over to the media. It’s just how these things work.

The big question this week is whether Matt Gaetz will promptly resign in order to get himself out of the daily spotlight, in the hope that the criminal probe will stop dominating the headlines. Gaetz insisted late last week that he wasn’t going to resign. But when people do resign, they always say that right up until the moment they resign. So we’ll see.

Mediaite, Florida Prosecutor Suggests Matt Gaetz Could Face Life in Prison for Sex Trafficking, Joe DePaolo, April 5, 2021. A Florida prosecutor believes that the potential consequences facing Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) could extend far beyond expulsion from Congress.

Appearing on Morning Joe Monday, Dave Aronberg — State Attorney for Palm Beach County — said that the Department of Justice probe into whether Gaetz paid for sex with women in violation of federal sex-trafficking laws could carry with it a massive jail sentence.

matt gaetz official“The most serious crime is child sex trafficking, punishable by up to life in prison,” Aronberg said. “There’s a ten-year mandatory minimum. The more information that comes out, the fewer defenses Matt seems to have left.”

Aronberg believes the biggest problem for Gaetz, left, is that Joel Greenberg — the former tax collector for Seminole County who has been brought up on federal charges for sex trafficking of a minor — could turn on Gaetz and provide evidence incriminating the congressman. Such a move could blow up what Aronbrerg called Gaetz’s “last remaining defense” — claiming he either did not have sex with the 17-year old girl at the center of the investigation or claiming she turned 18 by the time he did.

“Those defenses can be overcome by the sworn testimony of the alleged victim, or the discovery of incriminating documents like text messages, emails amongst the parties, or if Joel Greenberg flips on the bigger fish — Matt Gaetz,” Aronberg said. “Which I think is almost certain at this point.”

Aronberg argued that even lesser charges in connection with this investigation have serious implications.

“For Gaetz, the problem is, it’s not just child sex trafficking,” Aronberg said. “If they can’t prove that and can only prove he had sex with an underage girl, well, that would be a violation of the state law against having sex with a minor. And that is a 15-year maximum sentence. And you have to register as a sex offender. Even if it’s solicitation of a sex act, that’s also a felony, plus registration as a sex offender. There are no good outcomes here, I think, for Matt Gaetz in the future.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: The bizarre voicemail involving Joel Greenberg and Matt Gaetz, Bocha Blue, April 5, 2021. The words “strange” and “weird” seem to be becoming synonymous with Matt Gaetz’s name. And that is not very much of a surprise. But one person using those words stands out: Anna Eskamani. Who is she, and how is she connected to one Matt Gaetz?

bill palmer report logo headerAnna is a Florida State representative. And she had some dealings with Mr. Gaetz, which were on the strange side. (There’s that word again!). According to her Twitter feed, on July 4th, 2019, Anna received a voicemail from Gaetz AND his apparent partner in crime, Joel Greenberg. This was quite odd in itself because Anna did not know Gaetz well and was not on particularly great terms with him.

And she was not on good terms with Greenburg either since she had called for his resignation after he posted anti-Islamic posts on Facebook. Anna had called for Greenberg’s resignation. The voicemail was baffling. Here it is in its entirety:

Greenberg: “My dear Anna, this is your favorite tax collector. I’m up in the Panhandle with your favorite U.S. congressman Mr. Gaetz.

Gaetz: “Hi Anna.”

Greenberg: “And uh, we were just chatting about you and your lovely qualities, and your…”

Gaetz: “… We think you’re the future of the Democratic Party in Florida!”

Greenberg: “See, I know you’re the future of it, there’s no thinking involved. Anyway, uh, if you get this and you feel like chatting, give me a shout back. Hope you’re well. Hope you had a nice Fourth, later.”

The voicemail lasted only about 27 seconds but is still long enough to give one the creeps. I do not know the intent, but I highly doubt they were extending an olive branch of friendship. Anna also said Greenberg had pushed her into having lunch with him at one point where he appeared, to Anna, to be high the entire time. We wish the “favorite Tax collector” luck in prison.

 

April 4

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U.S. Governance, Politics

 

Top Stories

In this overhead view, pro-Trump insurrectionists are shown beating a fallen policeman during their attempt to seize control of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and prevent the vote certification for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Five died that day.

In this overhead view, pro-Trump insurrectionists are shown beating a fallen policeman during their attempt to seize control of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and prevent the vote certification for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Five died that day.

Down With Tyranny, Commentary: You Want Names? These Were The Names Behind Trump's Failed Coup Attempt, Howie Klein, April 4, 2021. Yesterday we noted how Arizona far right congressman Paul Gosar's brothers and sister are calling him out for the role he played in the violent insurrection. "There is no one member of Congress more responsible for the attack on the Capitol than Congressman Paul Gosar... He should be held accountable for all the lies he told that led to the attack on the Capitol on January 6th." He is dripping with guilt... but hardly alone among congressional Trumpists.

On Saturday, Seth Abramson created a comprehensive guide to those responsible for the January 6 insurrection. By all means click on the link and read the whole report (A Comprehensive Guide to Those Responsible for the January 6 Insurrection), which features some well known [alleged] criminals like Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, Jr., Ali Alexander, Enrique Tarrio, Michael Flynn, Alex Jones, Sidney Powell, Charlie Kirk, Lindsey Graham, Lin Wood, Nick Fuentes.

I'm going to call your attention to the section on Members of Congress.

"Trump’s GOP allies in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives," wrote Abramson, "did not directly participate in the January 6 insurrection, but nevertheless issued public rhetoric and engaged in actions in their official capacity as members of Congress that helped inspire the false belief that the 2020 election had been stolen -- and that with sufficient pressure on Congress on and before January 6, the election result might be overturned. These individuals paul gosarrepeatedly gave aid and comfort to insurrectionists in both word and deed. It remains under federal investigation whether these deeds extended to actually helping insurrectionists conduct reconnaissance tours of the U.S. Capitol before it was attacked."

Members of Congress Key Names: Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ, right); Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ); Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL); Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC); Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO); Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA); Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH); Rep. Jody Hice (R-SC); Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX); Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX); Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO); Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL); and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).

Proof via Substack, Investigation: A Comprehensive Guide to Those Responsible for the January 6 Insurrection, Seth Abramson, left, April 3, 2021 (excerpted below to about one-fourth published length). This primer also explains, in seth abramson headshotdetail, how and seth abramson proof logowhy the attack on the Capitol occurred.

The Department of Justice calls the FBI investigation into the January 6 assault on the United States Capitol one of the largest criminal probes in American history. One of the reasons the investigation is so historically vast and complex is that it encompasses five discrete yet overlapping classes of potential criminal defendants.

This article details those five classes, establishes the key intersections between each, identifies a small number of key events in the lead-up to the insurrection, and presents an overarching narrative—confirmed by both testimonial and documentary evidence—of how the insurrection occurred.

The Five Classes of Insurrectionists

Paramilitaries: The Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, Boogaloo Bois, QAnoners, and 8kun (an online community of trolls) all had a significant presence at the Capitol on January 6, as well as a patchwork of lesser-known entities that included smaller white supremacist organizations, militias, independently operating trolls from the internet, and heterogeneous breeds of conspiracy theorist.

Grassroots Organizations: This category includes at least six grassroots organizations (Stop the Steal, Women for Trump, Latinos for Trump, Students for Trump, Jericho March, and Women for America First, this last an outgrowth of Women for Trump) as well as a number of pro-Trump PACs or nonprofits (among them Save America PAC, America First Policies, and the Council for National Policy) that were involved in planning, funding, promoting, and/or coordinating the events of January 6.

The Trump Campaign: Officially, the 2020 Trump campaign began dissolving shortly after the 2020 election, but a sufficient number of loyalists and dead-enders remained to seek to assist Trump in overturning the November election. Many of these individuals had longstanding ties to the Trump family, the Trump administration, or a past Trump political campaign.

Independent Agitators and Enablers: Trump’s brand of personal and professional corruption has always attracted a bizarre swarm of persons that includes dissolute grifters, deranged ideologues, and foreign agents—essentially, unscrupulous but sufficiently well-resourced people who see in Trump a means of advancing their fringe designs with relative impunity.

Members of Congress: Trump’s GOP allies in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives did not directly participate in the January 6 insurrection, but nevertheless issued public rhetoric and engaged in actions in their official capacity as members of Congress that helped inspire the false belief that the 2020 election had been stolen—and that with sufficient pressure on Congress on and before January 6, the election result might be overturned. Many individuals listed below attended pre-January 6 strategy sessions with the president and his top advisers, while other spoke at Stop the Steal events and (in a few rare instances) arguably directly incited violence with their irresponsible rhetoric.

Seth Abramson, shown above left and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Trump Steered Supporters Into Unwitting Donations, Shane Goldmacher, April 4, 2021 (print ed.). Online donors were guided into weekly recurring contributions. Demands for refunds spiked. Complaints to banks and credit card companies soared. But the money helped keep Donald Trump’s struggling campaign afloat.

Stacy Blatt was in hospice care last September listening to Rush Limbaugh’s dire warnings about how badly Donald J. Trump’s campaign needed money when he went online and chipped in everything he could: $500.

djt hands up mouth open CustomIt was a big sum for a 63-year-old battling cancer and living in Kansas City on less than $1,000 per month. But that single contribution — federal records show it was his first ever — quickly multiplied. Another $500 was withdrawn the next day, then $500 the next week and every week through mid-October, without his knowledge — until Mr. Blatt’s bank account had been depleted and frozen. When his utility and rent payments bounced, he called his brother, Russell, for help.

What the Blatts soon discovered was $3,000 in withdrawals by the Trump campaign in less than 30 days. They called their bank and said they thought they were victims of fraud.

“It felt,” Russell said, “like it was a scam.”

But what the Blatts believed was duplicity was actually an intentional scheme to boost revenues by the Trump campaign and the for-profit company that processed its online donations, WinRed. Facing a cash crunch and getting badly outspent by the Democrats, the campaign had begun last September to set up recurring donations by default for online donors, for every week until the election.

Contributors had to wade through a fine-print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt out.

As the election neared, the Trump team made that disclaimer increasingly opaque, an investigation by The New York Times showed. It introduced a second prechecked box, known internally as a “money bomb,” that doubled a person’s contribution. Eventually its solicitations featured lines of text in bold and capital letters that overwhelmed the opt-out language.

The tactic ensnared scores of unsuspecting Trump loyalists — retirees, military veterans, nurses and even experienced political operatives. Soon, banks and credit card companies were inundated with fraud complaints from the president’s own supporters about donations they had not intended to make, sometimes for thousands of dollars.

“Bandits!” said Victor Amelino, a 78-year-old Californian, who made a $990 online donation to Mr. Trump in early September via WinRed. It recurred seven more times — adding up to almost $8,000. “I’m retired. I can’t afford to pay all that damn money.”

The sheer magnitude of the money involved is staggering for politics. In the final two and a half months of 2020, the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and their shared accounts issued more than 530,000 refunds worth $64.3 million to online donors. All campaigns make refunds for various reasons, including to people who give more than the legal limit. But the sum the Trump operation refunded dwarfed that of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign and his equivalent Democratic committees, which made 37,000 online refunds totaling $5.6 million in that time.

The recurring donations swelled Mr. Trump’s treasury in September and October, just as his finances were deteriorating. He was then able to use tens of millions of dollars he raised after the election, under the guise of fighting his unfounded fraud claims, to help cover the refunds he owed.

In effect, the money that Mr. Trump eventually had to refund amounted to an interest-free loan from unwitting supporters at the most important juncture of the 2020 race.

Marketers have long used ruses like prechecked boxes to steer American consumers into unwanted purchases, like magazine subscriptions. But consumer advocates said deploying the practice on voters in the heat of a presidential campaign — at such volume and with withdrawals every week — had much more serious ramifications.

“It’s unfair, it’s unethical and it’s inappropriate,” said Ira Rheingold, the executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

Harry Brignull, a user-experience designer in London who coined the term “dark patterns” for manipulative digital marketing practices, said the Trump team’s techniques were a classic of the “deceptive design” genre.

“It should be in textbooks of what you shouldn’t do,” he said.

Political strategists, digital operatives and campaign finance experts said they could not recall ever seeing refunds at such a scale. Mr. Trump, the R.N.C. and their shared accounts refunded far more money to online donors in the last election cycle than every federal Democratic candidate and committee in the country combined.

Over all, the Trump operation refunded 10.7 percent of the money it raised on WinRed in 2020; the Biden operation’s refund rate on ActBlue, the parallel Democratic online donation-processing platform, was 2.2 percent, federal records show.

Palmer Report, Investigation: 60 Minutes just exposed Ron DeSantis, Bill Palmer, right, April 4, 2021. Even in an era with an unusually large number of corrupt Governors bill palmerin office around the nation, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis may be the most grotesquely corrupt of all. He’s massively incompetent. He behaves like a maniac at press conferences. He has a new scandal every few weeks. Now one of his deadliest scandals is coming home to roost.

bill palmer report logo headerEven as Democratic and Republican Governors around the nation established multiple ways to get the COVID vaccine distributed to residents as quickly as possible, Ron DeSantis cut an exclusive deal with the Publix grocery store chain, which was not set up to handle the proper volume of appointments.

ron desantis oWorse, DeSantis, right, prioritized vaccine doses for Publix stores in counties that voted for him in 2018. There is little doubt that Floridians died as a result of this stunt.

Palmer Report has been talking about the DeSantis vaccine scandal all year, as have various Florida newspapers. But tonight, 60 Minutes finally CBS News logotackled the scandal.

It turns out Publix made a six figure donation to DeSantis’ reelection campaign just weeks before he rolled out the exclusive vaccine deal. That means it wasn’t just a bad move, it was a corrupt one. Now that 60 Minutes has finally put a national spotlight on this scandal, DeSantis needs to be federally investigated for corruption and potential homicide, as there’s little doubt that Floridians died as a result of DeSantis’ corrupt delay of the vaccine rollout.

 Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.

New York Post, Matt Gaetz and Florida pols played Harry Potter-themed ‘sex challenge’ game: report, Laura Italiano, April 4, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Matt Gaetz and fellow Florida lawmakers played a creepy, competitive, “sex challenge” game while working at the statehouse ten years ago — in which participants won varying points matt gaetz o Customdepending on who they slept with, according to a new report.

Competitors could earn extra points for bedding a married legislator or spending the night at a college sorority house, a female GOP insider told Business Insider in the report, published Friday.

And anyone who slept with one particular conservative female politician “won the whole game regardless of points,” said the source, who spoke to Business Insider on condition of anonymity.

That woman was known as the game’s “snitch,” after the coveted flying golden ball in Quidditch, a magical sport played by young wizards in the Harry Potter book series, the source said.

The source declined to name the “snitch” to protect her privacy, and told Business Insider she “heard specific references of Gaetz being involved and scoring points,” back when he served in the state House of Representatives.

matt gaetz twitter shortsThe latest sordid revelation comes just when it seemed that the accusations couldn’t possibly get any raunchier against Gaetz, who is already mired in a federal sex-trafficking investigation.

Matt Gaetz (shown in a file photo illustrating the staging of a cable television interview) boasted that pal charged with sex trafficking was his wingman, report claims

The sex game has been alluded to in less detail in previous stories, Business Insider noted.

In January, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Florida state Rep. Chris Latvala accused Gaetz in a 2020 tweet of having “created a game where members of the FL House got “points” for sleeping with aides, interns, lobbyists, and married legislators.”

Legislators got one point for sleeping with a lobbyist, two for sleeping with legislative staff, three for another legislator and six for a married legislator, the Tampa Bay Times alleged.

Sleeping with “virgins” was another way to get points, ABC News alleged this week, citing a source.

Mediaite, Trump Biographer Says ‘Needy’ Former President Is Entering His ‘Fat Elvis’ Period, Josh Feldman, April 4, 2021. CNN’s Jim Acosta mocked former djt golf shirt march 14 2021President Donald Trump on Sunday over his very on-brand Easter messages and recent role as a wedding crasher.

In statements over the weekend, Trump made his usual complaints and false claims about the election, appended with brief “Happy Easter” messages.

Acosta brought on Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio to talk about the former president being a “wedding crasher” using occasions like wedding (illustrated by a photo at right on March 14) and Easter Sunday to “air his grievances.”

D’Antonio said Trump is basically an aging comedian recycling old material, telling Acosta, “We have to suffer through the same nonsense over and over again. And as you said, you do hate to hear it, because at least technically speaking he’s a former president.”

At one point Acosta brought up what several former presidents have done in their post-presidency’s, to ask if Trump is filling his need of “they like me, they really, really like me.”

D’Antonio said Trump is “very needy” and the wedding video showed him “really begging for people to applaud.”

 

April 3

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April 2

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  • matt gaetz o CustomGeneral News
  • Matt Gaetz Scandal Probe
  • Voter Supression In Georgia
  • Chauvin Murder Trial
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Matt Gaetz Scandal Probe

 

Voter Supression In Georgia

 

 

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  • Matt Gaetz Scandal Probe

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Justice Dept. Inquiry Into Matt Gaetz Said to Be Focused on Cash Paid to Women, Katie Benner and Michael S. Schmidt, April 2, 2021 (print ed.). The congressman and a former official in Florida sent money to the women using cash apps, receipts showed. Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, was first elected to the House in 2016 at the age of 34 and cast himself as a die-hard Trump supporter.

A Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by The New York Times.

joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorInvestigators believe Joel Greenberg, left, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people said.

One of the women who had sex with both men also agreed to have sex with an unidentified associate of theirs in Florida Republican politics, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. Mr. Greenberg had initially contacted her online and introduced her to Mr. Gaetz, the person said.

Mr. Gaetz denied ever paying a woman for sex.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department inquiry is also examining whether Mr. Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl and whether she received anything of material value, according to four people familiar with the investigation. The sex trafficking count against Mr. Greenberg involved the same girl, according to two people briefed on the investigation.

The authorities have also investigated whether other men connected to Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg had sex with the 17-year-old, two of the people said.

Mr. Gaetz, 38, was elected to Congress in 2016 and became one of President Donald J. Trump’s most outspoken advocates.

The Times has reviewed receipts from Cash App, a mobile payments app, and Apple Pay that show payments from Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg to one of the women, and a payment from Mr. Greenberg to a second woman. The women told their friends that the payments were for sex with the two men, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

In encounters during 2019 and 2020, Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg instructed the women to meet at certain times and places, often at hotels around Florida, and would tell them the amount of money they were willing to pay, according to the messages and interviews.

One person said that the men also paid in cash, sometimes withdrawn from a hotel ATM.

Some of the men and women took ecstasy, an illegal hallucinogenic drug, before having sex, including Mr. Gaetz, two people familiar with the encounters said.

In some cases, Mr. Gaetz asked women to help find others who might be interested in having sex with him and his friends, according to two people familiar with those conversations. Should anyone inquire about their relationships, one person said, Mr. Gaetz told the women to say that he had paid for hotel rooms and dinners as part of their dates.

FBI logoThe F.B.I. has questioned multiple women involved in the encounters, including as recently as January, to establish details of their relationships with Mr. Gaetz and his friends, according to text messages and two people familiar with the interviews.

No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear. Mr. Gaetz’s office issued a statement on Thursday night in a response to a request for comment.

“Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex,” the statement said. “Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life.”

A lawyer for Mr. Greenberg, Fritz Scheller, declined to comment, as did a Justice Department spokesman.

It is not illegal to provide adults with free hotel stays, meals and other gifts, but if prosecutors think they can prove that the payments to the women were for sex, they could accuse Mr. Gaetz of trafficking the women under “force, fraud or coercion.” For example, prosecutors have filed trafficking charges against people suspected of providing drugs in exchange for sex because feeding another person’s drug habit could be seen as a form of coercion.

It is also a violation of federal child sex trafficking law to provide someone under 18 with anything of value in exchange for sex, which can include meals, hotels, drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. A conviction carries a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.

The investigation stems from the Justice Department’s continuing inquiry into Mr. Greenberg, who potentially faces decades in prison on three dozen charges. The U.S. attorney’s office in Central Florida initially secured an indictment against Mr. Greenberg in June, alleging that he had stalked a political rival and had used his elected office to create fake identification cards.

During the investigation, the authorities discovered evidence that prompted them to broaden it, and Mr. Greenberg was indicted in August on the sex trafficking charge.

One of the sites the men met women through was called Seeking Arrangement, which describes itself as a place where wealthy people find attractive companions and pamper them “with fine dinners, exotic trips and allowances.” The site’s founder has said it has 20 million members worldwide. The F.B.I. mentioned the website in a conversation with at least one potential witness, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

Mr. Greenberg was indicted this week on additional charges, accusing him of submitting false claims to receive pandemic relief aid from the government and trying to bribe a government official. The authorities said Mr. Greenberg undertook those efforts after he was initially indicted last summer.

Mr. Greenberg, who has pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges, is scheduled to go on trial in June. He was sent to jail in March for violating the terms of his bail.

Mr. Gaetz said this week that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. Subjects of investigations are often witnesses or people who might have information that could help the government pursue its targets. But it is common for that designation to shift over the course of an investigation.

“I only know that it has to do with women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”

Mr. Gaetz, a lawyer, was first elected to the House representing the Florida Panhandle at age 34. The son of a former president of the Florida State Senate, Mr. Gaetz attended Florida State University and William & Mary Law School before serving in the Florida State Legislature.

Mr. Gaetz has sought to divert attention from the Justice Department investigation by claiming that he and his father were the targets of an extortion plot by two men trying to secure funding for a separate venture.

The men — Robert Kent, a former Air Force intelligence officer who runs a consulting business, and Stephen Alford, a real estate developer who has been convicted of fraud — approached Mr. Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, about funding their efforts to locate Robert A. Levinson, an American hostage held in Iran. They suggested to Don Gaetz that Mr. Levinson’s successful return could somehow be used to secure a pardon for Matt Gaetz if he were charged with federal crimes, according to a copy of their proposal provided to The Times.

Soon after, Don Gaetz hired a lawyer and contacted the F.B.I. Matt Gaetz said his father wore a wire and taped a meeting and a telephone conversation with Mr. Alford. An email exchange between Don Gaetz’s lawyer and the Justice Department provided to The Times appears to confirm he was generally cooperating with the F.B.I. as it looked into his claims.

Mr. Kent denied the Gaetzes’ assertions. He said he had heard rumors that Matt Gaetz might be under investigation and mentioned them only to sweeten his proposal. “I told him I’m not trying to extort, but if this were true, he might be interested in doing something good,” Mr. Kent said in an interview.

Last year, the Trump administration notified the family of Mr. Levinson, a former F.B.I. agent, that he had died while in captivity in Iran, where he disappeared in 2007 while on an unauthorized mission for the C.I.A.

But some people involved with the Levinson case continued to believe that he might still be alive, including Mr. Kent.

He was stunned when he heard that Matt Gaetz had sought to tie the Justice Department investigation to an extortion plot related to the Levinson case.

“He threw Levinson and the entire Levinson family under the bus,” Mr. Kent said. “I can’t imagine what these poor people have been through. This guy, to divert attention from himself, has raked up the attention to the family.”

Don Gaetz also taped a phone call and a meeting with David McGee, a Levinson family lawyer, where they discussed the rescue proposal. In an interview, Mr. McGee denied any involvement and suggested Matt Gaetz was conflating the matter inappropriately with his own potential criminal liability.

“He’s trying to distract attention from a pending tidal wave that is about to sink his ship,” Mr. McGee said.

Katie Benner covers the Justice Department. She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. @ktbenner

Michael S. Schmidt is a Washington correspondent covering national security and federal investigations. He was part of two teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 — one for reporting on workplace sexual harassment and the other for coverage of President Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia. @NYTMike

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Indicted Gaetz sex trafficking accomplice inherited Jeffrey Epstein blackmail duties, Wayne Madsen, left (author of 18 books and former Navy intelligence officer. @WMRDC), wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallApril 1, 2021. WMR has learned from sources close to the federal prosecution of disgraced Seminole County, Florida Tax Collector Joel M. wayne madesen report logoGreenberg, indicted in Orlando last year for the sexual trafficking of a 14-year old girl, inherited some of the political blackmail duties previously assigned by Israeli intelligence to the late Palm Beach, Florida resident Jeffrey Epstein.

Greenberg has been identified as a partner of U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz, who is currently the target of a federal grand jury in Orlando for sexually trafficking a 17-year old girl.

New York Post, Rep. Matt Gaetz’s communications director resigns amid federal probe, Emily Jacobs, April 2, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz — who is facing a federal sex-trafficking probe, accusations that he showed lawmakers pictures and videos of nude women he claimed to have slept with and an alleged extortion plot — was hit with more bad PR Friday.

Luke Ball, communications director for Gaetz (R-Fla.), is resigning his post, the congressman’s office announced ahead of the weekend.

“The Office of Congressman Matt Gaetz and Luke Ball have agreed that it would be best to part ways,” a joint statement read. “We thank him for his time in our office, and we wish him the best moving forward.”

Ball scrubbed mentions of Gaetz, 38, from his Twitter biography by midday Thursday.

The Florida lawmaker has found himself embroiled in a considerable amount of controversy over the past week.

Previous stories:

  • CNN, Gaetz showed nude photos of women he said he'd slept with to lawmakers, sources tell CNN, Jeremy Herb, Lauren Fox and Ryan Nobles, April 1, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican being investigated by the Justice Department over sex trafficking allegations, made a name for himself when he arrived on Capitol Hill as a conservative firebrand on TV and staunch defender of then-President Donald Trump. Behind the scenes, Gaetz gained a reputation in Congress over his relationships with women and bragging about his sexual escapades to his colleagues, multiple sources told CNN.
  • New York Post, Meet Ginger Luckey, Matt Gaetz’s fiancée amid sex trafficking probe, Gabrielle Fonrouge, April 1, 2021 (print ed.). Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz — who’s reportedly facing a federal criminal probe for allegedly enticing a minor to travel for sex — is engaged to 26-year-old Ginger Luckey, a Harvard business school student who lives in California. Gaetz — who has strenuously denied the new allegations — met Luckey in March 2020 at a fundraiser at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
  • New York Post, Oculus founder, just 21, ‘never imagined’ $2B Facebook deal, Kaja Whitehouse, March 26, 2014.
  • Washington Post, Gaetz investigation complicated by overture to his father about ex-FBI agent who went missing, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, April 1, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Matt Gaetz, right, a Florida Republican known for his fierce allegiance to former president Donald Trump, had been under Justice Department investigation for months for a possible sex crime when two men approached his father with a proposal, people familiar with the matter said. matt gaetz o CustomThe men had learned of the investigation, they wrote to Don Gaetz, and wanted to offer an opportunity to help his son, the people said. He could give a huge sum of money to fund their effort to locate Robert A. Levinson — the longest-held American hostage in Iran, whose family has said they were told he is dead. If the operation was a success, he would win public favor and help alleviate Matt Gaetz’s legal woes.
  • New York Times, Investigation: Matt Gaetz Is Said to Be Investigated Over Possible Sexual Relationship With a Girl, 17, Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner, March 31, 2021 (print ed.). An inquiry into the Florida congressman was opened in the final months of the Trump administration, people briefed on it said.
  • Washington Post, Tucker Carlson denies Gaetz claim that he met witness in FBI probes: ‘One of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted,’ Teo Armus, March 31, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was on Fox News on Tuesday night, defending himself against newly public allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, when he seemed to pull his interviewer into the matter.
  • Washington Post, Ex-GOP official Joel Greenberg flaunted ties to Matt Gaetz. Then he was charged with child sex trafficking, Katie Shepherd,  March 31, 2021.joel greenberg seminole county tax collector Until last year, Joel Greenberg was an ascendant political player in Seminole County, Fla., where he unseated a longtime incumbent in the race for county tax collector, won a political battle to allow his deputies to carry guns on the job and flaunted his connections to prominent Republicans with close ties to president Donald Trump, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Roger Stone. But last June his reputation fell apart in spectacular fashion when federal investigators arrested him on stalking and child sex trafficking charges, prompting his resignation

 

  • Voter Supression In Georgia

washington post logoWashington Post, Companies struggle with pressure to take stand on Georgia voting bill, Todd C. Frankel, Jena McGregor, Candace Buckner and Steven Zeitchik, April 2, 2021 (print ed.).  Faced with growing expectations from the public and workers on some issues, corporate leaders have found themselves forced into positions on topics they’d probably prefer to avoid.

Companies are finding it increasingly difficult to stay on the sidelines of the nation’s social and political debates after a year of intense protests that led many firms to declare their support for racial justice and opposition to attempts to overturn the presidential election.

georgia mapBut as major corporations speaking out about Georgia’s controversial voting law discovered this week, deciding when to step in, how far to go and whether to follow up with actions, can be fraught.

On Fox News Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) compared early-voting rules in Georgia to other states and defended the measure. “They’re not going to get back on board because they’ve been pressured by their board of directors, who have been pressured by these activists. And there’s nothing I can do about that.”

He also said: “They’ll have to answer to their shareholders. There’s a lot of people that work for them and have done business with them who are very upset,” and said that “We are not going to back down when we have a bill that expands the opportunity for people to vote on the weekends in Georgia.”

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosAfter initially mild criticism of Georgia’s the measure, which was signed into law last week, companies scrambled to issue more forceful statements. James Quincey, the CEO of Coca-Cola, described the bill as “wrong” and “a step backward.” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian offered up an abrupt change in tone, calling the legislation “unacceptable” and contrary to the company’s values.

Those statements won guarded praise from activists — as well as calls for more concrete action. “Delta’s statement finally tells the truth — even if it’s late,” Nsé Ufot, head of the activist group New Georgia Project Action Fund, said in a statement.

But companies have struggled with growing expectations from the public and employees that they take stands on important social issues, forcing corporate leaders into positions on issues they’d probably prefer to avoid, from Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem to the “bathroom bills” that targeted transgender people to President Donald Trump’s statements about voter fraud in the 2020 elections.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden enters Ga. boycott battle by voicing support for moving All-Star Game, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., April 2, 2021 (print ed.). The president’s remarks put him on a tightrope between defending Americans’ right to vote and calling for a boycott that could kneecap people and businesses emerging from the pandemic.

joe biden black background resized serious filePresident Biden has called Georgia’s new slate of voting rules “a blatant attack on the right to vote, the Constitution and good conscience” and “un-American.” Later, he declared it “Jim Crow on steroids.”

But until Wednesday night, Biden had not weighed in on what people who agree with him should do about the new Georgia policies, which critics say will disenfranchise mostly minority voters.

major league baseball mlb logoIn an interview aired on ESPN, Biden said he would “strongly support” players who believe Major League Baseball should move the summer All-Star Game from Truist Stadium, the home of the Atlanta Braves — a site eight miles from where Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed the new election measures into law.

The remarks put Biden on a tightrope between defending Americans’ right to vote and calling for a controversial boycott that could kneecap people and businesses emerging from the coronavirus pandemic. It’s also risky ground for a president who campaigned on his ability to attract both conservatives and liberals to voting booths, and who has resisted Republican efforts to link him to the most extreme members of his own party.

Previous stories: 

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Explaining Delta’s and Coca-Cola’s belated support for democracy, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 1, 2021. In a 180-degree about-face, Delta jennifer rubin new headshotAir Lines decided that, on second thought, suppressing the vote in Georgia is a bad idea. delta logoAxios reports: “Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian condemned Georgia’s new election law as ‘unacceptable’ in a memo circulated to staff on Wednesday, claiming that the ‘entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie’ about widespread voter fraud in 2020.” Less than a week ago, Bastian had declared that the bill “improved considerably during the legislative process.”
  • Truthout, Investigation: Hidden Horrors in the Georgia Vote Law, Greg Palast, right, April 1, 2021. To understand how this mass attack on greg palast hscitizens will work, we have to go back to December 21, just before the Georgia Senate run-offs, when True the Vote, a Texas group founded by Tea Party crusader Catherine Engelbrecht, challenged the right of 364,541 Georgians to cast ballots. You read that number right: more than a third of a million voters almost lost their vote. Almost. County elections boards, facing threats by the ACLU and Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight, rejected the challenges, noting that the numbers were too huge to be credible. One voter can challenge another if they have personal knowledge that the other voter is a fraud. The local shills used by the Texas group knew nothing of those they challenged.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What a scorching John Boehner book excerpt says about today’s GOP, Paul Waldman, right, April 2, 2021. Former speaker of the House paul waldmanJohn A. Boehner (R-Ohio) was nothing if not colorful, and in an upcoming memoir, he has some scores to settle. Among other things he uses the phrase “total moron” to describe members of his own party and calls Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) the “head lunatic” of GOP extremists.

In On the House: A Washington Memoir, Boehner also highlights something important about the nature of power within the Republican Party: how it worked when he was its leader in Congress, in the Trump years that followed and today. Sometimes that power has been exercised to the party’s great political benefit, while at other times — like right now — it threatens to consume the GOP.

Boehner describes a revealing 2011 exchange with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), far-right bomb-thrower and future presidential candidate, who demanded a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee; he rebuffed her:

Her response to me was calm and matter-of-fact. “Well, then I’ll just have to go talk to Sean Hannity and everybody at Fox,” she said, “and Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and everybody else on the radio, and tell them that this is how John Boehner is treating the people who made it possible for the Republicans to take back the House.”

I wasn’t the one with the power, she was saying. I just thought I was. She had the power now.

She was right, of course.

john boehner official portraitBoehner describes the evolution of conservative media between the early 1990s and the Obama years as a descent into “Looneyville,” but what really changed was the nature of the relationship between that media and the Republican Party.

In those earlier years, conservative media amplified the GOP’s ideas, spreading them to a wide audience and converting people to the conservative cause. But over time, the media tail came to wag the political dog.

What Boehner really shows us is how the world we live in now came to be. Today, conservative media isn’t just a locus of power on the right. Its own needs, preferences and incentives set the party’s agenda to a greater extent than ever.

That’s why so many of the key voices in the Republican Party today are concerned not primarily but entirely with their next media appearance, rather than the work of lawmaking. While there have always been “show horses” in Congress, the party is now oriented almost entirely toward whatever keeps the Fox viewers from changing the channel.

So while Democrats pass trillions of dollars in new spending, Republicans spend all their time whining about “cancel culture” and trying to make life miserable for transgender kids. Instead of conservative media amplifying the party’s message, it’s the other way around.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Accidental Disclosure Exposes a $1 Billion Tax Fight With Bristol Myers, Jesse Drucker, April 2, 2021 (print ed.). The I.R.S. believes the American drugmaker used an abusive offshore scheme to avoid federal taxes.

Almost nine years ago, Bristol Myers Squibb filed paperwork in Ireland to create a new offshore subsidiary. By moving Bristol Myers’s profits through the subsidiary, the American drugmaker could substantially reduce its U.S. tax bill.

Years later, the Internal Revenue Service got wind of the arrangement, which it condemned as an “abusive” tax shelter. The move by Bristol Myers, the I.R.S. concluded, would cheat the United States out of about $1.4 billion in taxes.

That is a lot of money, even for a large company like Bristol Myers. But the dispute remained secret. The company, which denies wrongdoing, didn’t tell its investors that the U.S. government was claiming more than $1 billion in unpaid taxes. The I.R.S. didn’t make any public filings about it.

And then, ever so briefly last spring, the dispute became public. It was an accident, and almost no one noticed. The episode provided a fleeting glimpse into something that is common but rarely seen up close and that the Biden administration hopes to discourage: multinational companies, with the help of elite law and accounting firms and with only belated scrutiny from the I.R.S., dodging billions of dollars in taxes.

Then, in an instant, all traces of the fight — and of Bristol Myers’s allegedly abusive arrangement — vanished from public view.

 

April 1

Matt Gaetz Scandal Probe

 

Voter Supression In Georgia

 

Top Stories 

  • Matt Gaetz Scandal Probe

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Justice Dept. Inquiry Into Matt Gaetz Said to Be Focused on Cash Paid to Women, Katie Benner and Michael S. Schmidt, April 1, 2021. The congressman and a former official in Florida sent money to the women using cash apps, receipts showed. Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, was first elected to the House in 2016 at the age of 34 and cast himself as a die-hard Trump supporter.

A Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by The New York Times.

joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorInvestigators believe Joel Greenberg, left, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters.

Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people said.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Indicted Gaetz sex trafficking accomplice inherited Jeffrey Epstein blackmail duties, Wayne Madsen, left (author of 18 books and former Navy intelligence officer. @WMRDC), wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallApril 1, 2021. WMR has learned from sources close to the federal prosecution of disgraced Seminole County, Florida Tax Collector Joel M. wayne madesen report logoGreenberg, indicted in Orlando last year for the sexual trafficking of a 14-year old girl, inherited some of the political blackmail duties previously assigned by Israeli intelligence to the late Palm Beach, Florida resident Jeffrey Epstein.

Greenberg has been identified as a partner of U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz, who is currently the target of a federal grand jury in Orlando for sexually trafficking a 17-year old girl.

CNNCNN, Gaetz showed nude photos of women he said he'd slept with to lawmakers, sources tell CNN, Jeremy Herb, Lauren Fox and Ryan Nobles, April 1, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican being investigated by the Justice Department over sex trafficking allegations, made a name for himself when he arrived on Capitol Hill as a conservative firebrand on TV and staunch defender of then-President Donald Trump.

Behind the scenes, Gaetz gained a reputation in Congress over his relationships with women and bragging about his sexual escapades to his colleagues, multiple sources told CNN.

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.

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.

Hours before the news broke Tuesday of the investigation involving Gaetz, Axios reported he was considering leaving Congress for a job at the conservative television station Newsmax.

matt gaetz ginger luckey twitter

New York Post, Meet Ginger Luckey, Matt Gaetz’s fiancée amid sex trafficking probe, Gabrielle Fonrouge, April 1, 2021 (print ed.). Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz — who’s reportedly facing a federal criminal probe for allegedly enticing a minor to travel for sex — is engaged to 26-year-old Ginger Luckey, a Harvard business school student who lives in California.

Gaetz — who has strenuously denied the new allegations — met Luckey (shown together in a Facebook photo) in March 2020 at a fundraiser at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

She later told the Daily Mail she’d been “dragged” to the event by her mother, but about nine months later, she agreed to marry the congressman after he popped the question on Dec. 30, 2020, at the same place they met during a holiday celebration at the resort.

“It was actually ‘duh,’” Luckey told the outlet of what she said when Gaetz proposed.

“It didn’t come as a surprise, I had sort of seen it coming.”

Luckey’s brother is Palmer Luckey, who founded the virtual reality company Oculus VR before selling it to Facebook for about $2 billion in 2014.

While she and Gaetz are based on opposite sides of the US, Luckey told the Mail her job went totally remote last March at the start of the pandemic so she spent time “traveling with him everywhere” and said she is the lawmaker’s “travel buddy.”

The suit also alleged that several medical school professors failed to report the harassment for investigation after the social worker confided in them.
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washington post logoWashington Post, Gaetz investigation complicated by overture to his father about ex-FBI agent who went missing, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, April 1, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Matt Gaetz, right, a Florida Republican known for his fierce allegiance to former president Donald Trump, had been under Justice Department investigation for months for a possible sex crime when two men approached his father with a proposal, people familiar with the matter said.

matt gaetz o CustomThe men had learned of the investigation, they wrote to Don Gaetz, and wanted to offer an opportunity to help his son, the people said. He could give a huge sum of money to fund their effort to locate Robert A. Levinson — the longest-held American hostage in Iran, whose family has said they were told he is dead. If the operation was a success, he would win public favor and help alleviate Matt Gaetz’s legal woes.

But Don Gaetz, a prominent Florida Republican who once led the state Senate, viewed the communication suspiciously, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe a continuing and politically sensitive probe. The investigation into Matt Gaetz’s alleged crime — he is suspected of having sex with a 17-year-old girl, as well as funding her travel — was not public knowledge. Fearing his family was being extorted, Don Gaetz contacted the FBI.

Justice Department log circularThe messy political drama has in some ways diverted attention from a grim reality for the congressman. He remains under investigation for possible sex crimes, leaving him vulnerable to potentially serious legal jeopardy.

The men who approached Gaetz’s father, people familiar with the matter said, had no apparent connection to the sex crimes investigation of his son, other than having somehow learned about it before it was publicly reported. But when news of law enforcement’s interest in Gaetz surfaced Tuesday, the congressman asserted that the allegation was “rooted in an extortion effort against my family for $25 million,” and he identified by name a former federal prosecutor who he said was part of the effort.

While the Justice Department investigates possible sex crimes, the FBI is separately examining whether the request to his father about Levinson might constitute extortion, with Gaetz and his family as possible victims. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

The Washington Examiner on Wednesday published a text message and a document that purports to outline the proposal to Don Gaetz.

The materials show that Bob Kent, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, told the former Florida lawmaker in a mid-March text he had a plan that could make Gaetz’s “future legal and political problems go away,” and claimed that Levinson was still alive.

The next day, according to the Examiner, the analyst met with Don Gaetz and gave him a proposal, titled “Project Homecoming,” which made specific claims about the sex-crimes investigation and other lurid allegations against Matt Gaetz, and proposed a plan to make the case go away.

robert levinson“Our strategy for Congressman Gaetz to mitigate his legal, and political, troubles would be for him, or someone else, to arrange for the funds required to obtain the immediate release of Robert Levinson (shown in three photos at right) from captivity in Iran,” the proposal said. “In exchange for the funds being arranged, and upon release of Robert Levinson, Congressman Gaetz shall be given credit for facilitating the release of Mr. Levinson.”

Substantiating criminal charges in the extortion probe could be difficult, people familiar with the matter said, noting that, when the two men — who have not been identified — first contacted Don Gaetz, they did not explicitly threaten to expose the congressman unless they were paid. Even if investigators do come to believe there was an attempt to extort the Gaetz family, it appears connected to the sex-crimes investigation only because the men involved discovered it and used it as leverage for personal purposes, people familiar with the matter said.

Don Gaetz and a spokesman for Matt Gaetz did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday. The congressman has not been charged with any crimes and has insisted he did nothing wrong.

Beyond his potential legal problems, Gaetz faces the prospect of political blowback. Lawmakers in both parties took a wait-and-see approach or remained quiet on the issue.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Wednesday that Gaetz would be removed from the Judiciary Committee if the allegations he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travel prove to be true. Federal child sex trafficking laws are implicated when the victim is less than 18 years old.

“Those are serious implications,” McCarthy said during an appearance on Fox News. “If it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that was the case. Right now, Matt Gaetz says it’s not true, and we don’t have any information.”

Gaetz has told associates he is contemplating leaving Congress early, possibly for a position at Newsmax. Brian Peterson, a Newsmax spokesman, declined to comment on any discussion between Gaetz and the network, saying, “Newsmax doesn’t comment on possible talent negotiations or plans the network may have been underway. But a person familiar with the deliberations said that Gaetz and Newsmax were talking, and Gaetz was interested in a possible role at the conservative media outlet, but Newsmax had not extended him an offer.

david mcgee resizedGaetz said in a statement Tuesday night that his family had been cooperating with federal authorities in the extortion probe and that his father had “even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals.” In an interview on Fox News, he identified one person he claimed was involved in the effort: David McGee, left, a former federal prosecutor in Florida now at the firm Beggs & Lane.

Tucker Carlson denies Gaetz claim that he met witness in FBI probes: ‘One of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted’

McGee has long represented the Levinson family in their more than a decade-long quest to find the FBI agent. In an interview Tuesday night, he said Don Gaetz “called me and asked to talk to me,” though would only say of their talk, “It is a pleasant conversation of a dad concerned about his son, and the trouble his son was in.” McGee disputed that he was part of an effort to extort Gaetz or that he was connected to the Justice Department’s investigation of possible sex trafficking by the congressman.

The initial communications to Don Gaetz referencing Levinson’s case came from Kent and a Florida developer named Stephen Alford, according to the Examiner and a person familiar with the matter. According to court records and local media reports, Alford has previously been convicted in local and federal fraud cases and spent significant time in prison.

Alford and Kent did not return messages seeking comment. McGee appeared to have had at least broad knowledge of the men’s interaction with Don Gaetz, people familiar with the matter said.

“It’s a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that he’s under investigation for sex trafficking of minors,” McGee said Tuesday night of the congressman’s allegations against him, adding, “I have no connection with that case at all, other than, one of a thousand people who have heard the rumors.”

McGee declined to comment Wednesday, but his firm issued a statement saying the congressman’s allegation was “false and defamatory.”

matt gaetz pace hs 200It is not clear how the men came to know about the investigation into Gaetz, shown in a 2017 Facebook photo showing his visit to a high school in his district, with no allegation existing of wrongdoing in that). Their proposal makes many claims, some of which seem to indicate specific, insider knowledge, that could not immediately be confirmed.

Levinson’s case has long vexed his family and the U.S. government. The retired FBI agent disappeared under murky circumstances in March 2007 while on Kish Island, a tourist spot off the coast of Iran, during an unauthorized trip for the CIA to gather intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. He was not spotted publicly again, and was last viewed alive in a 2010 hostage video.

The State Department and the Justice Department had offered a combined reward of $25 million for information on Levinson, and officials repeatedly pressed Iran on the matter. But last year, the government concluded he was dead, and the FBI briefed the family on the evidence they had found pointing to that result.

According to “Missing Man,” a 2016 book about the Levinson case by former New York Times reporter Barry Meier, McGee befriended Levinson when the lawyer was working as a federal prosecutor in Florida and Levinson was serving as an FBI agent.

By 2005, they had both left government for the private sector — Levinson as a private investigator and McGee as a defense attorney. Meier reported that Levinson sought legal advice from McGee when a federal prosecutor began asking questions about about his relationship with a man who was one of his sources and allegedly involved in cigarette smuggling. Levinson denied involvement but told McGee he feared indictment, the book reports.

Previous stories:

 

  • Voter Supression In Georgia

washington post logoWashington Post, Companies struggle with pressure to take stand on Georgia voting bill, Todd C. Frankel, Jena McGregor, Candace Buckner and Steven Zeitchik, April 1, 2021. Faced with growing expectations from the public and workers on some issues, corporate leaders have found themselves forced into positions on topics they’d probably prefer to avoid.

Companies are finding it increasingly difficult to stay on the sidelines of the nation’s social and political debates after a year of intense protests that led many firms to declare their support for racial justice and opposition to attempts to overturn the presidential election.

georgia mapBut as major corporations speaking out about Georgia’s controversial voting law discovered this week, deciding when to step in, how far to go and whether to follow up with actions, can be fraught.

On Fox News Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) compared early-voting rules in Georgia to other states and defended the measure. “They’re not going to get back on board because they’ve been pressured by their board of directors, who have been pressured by these activists. And there’s nothing I can do about that.”

He also said: “They’ll have to answer to their shareholders. There’s a lot of people that work for them and have done business with them who are very upset,” and said that “We are not going to back down when we have a bill that expands the opportunity for people to vote on the weekends in Georgia.”

After initially mild criticism of Georgia’s the measure, which was signed into law last week, companies scrambled to issue more forceful statements. James Quincey, the CEO of Coca-Cola, described the bill as “wrong” and “a step backward.” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian offered up an abrupt change in tone, calling the legislation “unacceptable” and contrary to the company’s values.

Those statements won guarded praise from activists — as well as calls for more concrete action. “Delta’s statement finally tells the truth — even if it’s late,” Nsé Ufot, head of the activist group New Georgia Project Action Fund, said in a statement.

But companies have struggled with growing expectations from the public and employees that they take stands on important social issues, forcing corporate leaders into positions on issues they’d probably prefer to avoid, from Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem to the “bathroom bills” that targeted transgender people to President Donald Trump’s statements about voter fraud in the 2020 elections.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden enters Ga. boycott battle by voicing support for moving All-Star Game, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., April 1, 2021. The president’s remarks put him on a tightrope between defending Americans’ right to vote and calling for a boycott that could kneecap people and businesses emerging from the pandemic.

joe biden black background resized serious filePresident Biden has called Georgia’s new slate of voting rules “a blatant attack on the right to vote, the Constitution and good conscience” and “un-American.” Later, he declared it “Jim Crow on steroids.”

But until Wednesday night, Biden had not weighed in on what people who agree with him should do about the new Georgia policies, which critics say will disenfranchise mostly minority voters.

major league baseball mlb logoIn an interview aired on ESPN, Biden said he would “strongly support” players who believe Major League Baseball should move the summer All-Star Game from Truist Stadium, the home of the Atlanta Braves — a site eight miles from where Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed the new election measures into law.

The remarks put Biden on a tightrope between defending Americans’ right to vote and calling for a controversial boycott that could kneecap people and businesses emerging from the coronavirus pandemic. It’s also risky ground for a president who campaigned on his ability to attract both conservatives and liberals to voting booths, and who has resisted Republican efforts to link him to the most extreme members of his own party.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Explaining Delta’s and Coca-Cola’s belated support for democracy, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 1, 2021. In a 180-degree about-face, Delta jennifer rubin new headshotAir Lines decided that, on second thought, suppressing the vote in Georgia is a bad idea.

Axios reports: “Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian condemned Georgia’s new election law as ‘unacceptable’ in a memo circulated to staff on Wednesday, claiming that the ‘entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie’ about widespread voter fraud in 2020.” Less than a week ago, Bastian had declared that the bill “improved considerably during the legislative process.”

It is ironic that at a time when taxpayers are sending billions to airlines and other companies to sustain them through the recession, so few businesses pay heed to the obligations of corporate citizenship. (They are more than willing to take subsidized loans from taxpayers, but ask them to increase corporate taxes to pay for infrastructure that benefits all Americans — companies included — and many of them throw a fit.)

Coca-Cola also had a change of heart.

It is not hard to figure out why these companies reversed course. Public outrage from African Americans around the country, and perhaps the threat of boycotts, seemed to have had their desired effect. Moreover, 72 African American executives signed on to a public letter demanding that corporate America stand behind democracy.

How did giant corporations — especially those that have been so attuned to issues such as last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, LGBTQ rights and climate change — get this so wrong? One explanation is the lack of diversity at the heads of major companies. There are four African American CEOs among the Fortune 500. No wonder they “missed” this.

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Truthout, Investigation: Hidden Horrors in the Georgia Vote Law, Greg Palast, right, April 1, 2021. When we first reported that handing a slice of pizza to a voter waiting greg palast hsthree hours in a line is now a felony in Georgia, other media ate it up (forgive me my puns). It’s easy to understand the cruelty of plantation-minded Georgia Republicans making Black folk suffer from hunger and thirst in lines the GOP deliberately made long by closing polling stations in minority precincts.

But there are greater horrors than pizza prohibition hidden in the 95 pages of Georgia’s new anti-voting law.

Donald Trump infamously demanded the Georgia Secretary of State “find 11,780” votes. The MAGA mafia in the Georgia legislature found 364,541 votes to cancel, that is, voters whose ballots would be blocked from the count in the next election.

georgia mapTo understand how this mass attack on citizens will work, we have to go back to December 21, just before the Georgia Senate run-offs, when True the Vote, a Texas group founded by Tea Party crusader Catherine Engelbrecht, challenged the right of 364,541 Georgians to cast ballots. You read that number right: more than a third of a million voters almost lost their vote.

Almost. County elections boards, facing threats by the ACLU and Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight, rejected the challenges, noting that the numbers were too huge to be credible. One voter can challenge another if they have personal knowledge that the other voter is a fraud. The local shills used by the Texas group knew nothing of those they challenged.

The new law specifically authorizes unlimited challenges. And Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State has gleefully invited True the Vote to attack voter rolls. (For more on Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger, whom voting rights lawyer Gerald Griggs calls the “Vote Suppressor in Chief,” see my brad raffenspergerreport for Democracy Now!).

But won’t those same county boards kick any new absurd challenges? The MAGA mob in the Legislature has got that covered. Under the new law, the State Board of Elections can remove a county board if it doesn’t, in the State’s opinion, rule properly on these challenges.

brian kemp CustomAnd who will make up the State Board? The new law hands over the board to the GOP leaders of the Legislature plus a representative of Republican Governor Brian Kemp, left, infamous for his own manipulations of the voter rolls which gave him the gubernatorial race against Stacey Abrams.

The True the Vote challenges, officially backed by the Republican Party, centered on Atlanta counties heavy with voters of color. Voting rights attorney Barbara Arnwine, founder of Transformative Justice Coalition and co-plaintiff with Black Voters Matter, warns that the new state board will have the authority to remove the local board and override local decisions.

Where the heck did True the Vote’s Engelbrecht, a self-described “housewife” in Texas, get the dollars to mount this multi-county attack on Georgians?

In 2016, our investigator Zach D. Roberts confronted Engelbrecht with her funding by the Koch Brothers, which she didn’t deny. ProPublica traced their lucre to the Bradley Foundation which our team exposed as the funders of attempts to wrongly purge Black voters in Milwaukee.

Don’t discount True the Vote. The lawyer who is leading their attack in Georgia is James Bopp Jr. who argued for Citizens United in the Supreme Court case that opened the door to the money poisoning of elections.

That’s the money. But their challenge list supposedly came from the US Post Office’s National Change of Address registry.

us mail logoSounds official. Sounds legit. It isn’t. In 2017 and 2018, Brian Kemp, then both Secretary of State and candidate for Governor, used a similar list to remove hundreds of thousands of voters on the grounds they had moved out of Georgia.

The Palast Investigative Fund, working for Salon, hired the nation’s top experts in the use of postal files and found that Kemp’s list was as phony as a three dollar bill. Kemp also claimed he relied on the Post Office, but the experts found Kemp had wrongly barred 340,355 from the polls.

One of the voters we located, accused of illegally registering from a former address: 92-year-old Christine Jordan, cousin of the late Dr. Martin Luther King. I was with her when she was bounced from the polls.

Stacey Abrams cited our story in declaring she’d been cheated out of victory. And cheated she was.

In 2020, the ACLU released a new report by the Palast Investigative Fund in which we identified, by name and address, another 198,351 Georgians wrongly removed. Black Voters Matter sued in federal court to reverse the removals.

Crucially, Black Voters Matter, working with the Hispanic rights group Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, used postcards, billboards, phone calls and publicity to re-register the victims we identified. The result: Georgia’s voters, not the purge, chose the President and Senate.

That didn’t make Trump nor his MAGA maniacs in the Legislature happy.

And the federal case (in which I testified for Black Voters Matter) has won a grudging agreement from the state that Georgia must follow the complex process in federal law meant stop the removal of innocent voters.

But now, innocents beware.

Avoiding Federal law – or breaking it?

True the Vote is crowing that Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger has virtually invited them to challenge more voters.

While the press has made much of his war with Trump, Raffensperger is very much a partisan Republican hack, one of the most vicious suppression experts I’ve encountered in my long career.

Now he has openly stated that he can use True the Vote’s challenge trickery to avoid the strictures of federal law. True the Vote’s press release quotes Raffensperger:

“I’ve said since Election Day that I must follow the law in the execution of our elections, and I’ve also encouraged Georgians to report any suspected problems for my office to investigate,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “Though federal law restricts our ability to update our voter registration lists, the Elector Challenge is a vehicle under our law to ensure voter integrity.”

In other words, while Raffensperger must follow federal law, he claims that True the Vote doesn’t have to, and he can merrily accept True the Vote’s challenges.

Federal law: 

• prohibits states removing voters within 90 days of a federal election;
• requires that voters challenged for supposedly living out-of-state must be sent a postcard, months before an election, allowing the voter to halt their removal.
• requires the Postal change-of-address information come from a Post Office licensed source, not “Joe’s Purges-R-Us.”

But Raffensperger is saying that if True the Vote gives voters no notice, uses a bogus unlicensed list, and demands that voters be removed without notice just days before the election, that’s perfectly fine, a way to sidestep federal protection.

And if a county elections board finds True the Vote’s methods biased, wrong and illegal, as they have so far, the new partisan state board can simply overrule the county.

In other words, to hell with federal law. The state can’t commit the crime, but the state can simply adopt the illegal process used by this Koch-moneyed operation.

True the Vote claims their purge operation doesn’t threaten rights because the counties will have to send each challenged voter a letter allowing them to show up to a hearing to defend their registration or ballot.

But, as Arnwine told me, almost no one will take a day from work to show up to a courtroom-style hearing to prove they are who they are. And some challenges can occur after a voter has cast a mail-in ballot.

raphael warnockSen. Raphael Warnock, left, is already campaigning to hold his seat in 2022. He is expected to be on the ballot with Stacey Abrams running for “re-election” as Governor. Clearly, the GOP believes they can’t trust Georgia’s voters to choose their Senator and Governor. Rather, they are counting on Jim Crow to “true the vote.”

We are back in federal court in Atlanta with Black Voters Matter, Latino activists SVREP, the Transformative Justice Coalition and others and we will now take on Georgia’s new anti-voting bill.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosFor eight years, the Palast Investigative Fund has been digging into the deep files of the Georgia’s officials.

But we couldn't have done it without your support.

Every time I think I can move on from Georgia, Georgia’s MAGA-nauts come up with some new Jim Crow horror. Please make your tax-deductible donation now.

And our investigations are spreading wide from Georgia to North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and beyond. There is no other journalistic organization with our 20 years experience, expertise and record of accomplishment in investigating and exposing voter suppression.

Our team is already flying South. Everything is at stake.

And I truly thank all those who have kept us alive with your support through this non-stop struggle to save the vote.

Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" and "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits," out as major non-fiction movie: "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Case of the Stolen Election," available on Amazon and Amazon Prime.