Ohio representative Jim Jordan has said that he believes Matt Gaetz, who claimed he was being extorted after it was reported that he is being investigated for allegedly having sexual relations with a 17-year-old girl.
After California Democratic Representative Ted Lieu called for Mr Gaetz to be removed from the Judiciary Committee while he's being investigated by the Department of Justice, Mr Jordan told CNN: “I believe Matt Gaetz. He should not be removed from the Judiciary Committee.”
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Mr Gaetz is being investigated for allegedly paying for a minor with whom he had sexual relations to travel with him, a possible violation of federal laws concerning sexual trafficking.
Mr Gaetz has denied the allegations. The 38-year-old said on Tuesday that claims against him were “verifiably false”, in an appearance on Fox News.
Mr Jordan, a fellow hardline conservative and Donald Trump associate, is one of few Republicans to take a stance on the issue.
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Some in Republican circles on Capitol have privately called Mr Gaetz "the meanest person in politics," a "showboat," and said that “he’s a blight on the conference".
But Mr Jordan's support comes with some baggage. He was accused in 2018 by several former Ohio State University wrestlers of covering up sexual abuse by a team doctor during his time as a coach from 1986 to 1994.
Over 100 former students have testified that they were sexually abused by Dr Richard Strauss.
Former Ohio State wrestler Adam DiSabato said during public testimony last year that Mr Jordan put pressure on wrestlers to change their accounts and "flip their stories".
Mr DiSabato's brother Mike DiSabato was the whistleblower revealing the alleged abuse committed by Dr Strauss.
Adam DiSabato said during his testimony in the Ohio state legislature that he received a phone call from Mr Jordan in July 2018, when the story was first published.
He said: “Jim Jordan called me crying, crying, grovelling, on the Fourth of July, begging me to go against my brother, begging me, crying for half an hour. That’s the kind of coverups going on here.”
Ian Fury, Mr Jordan’s communications director, told The Washington Post at the time that the statements were a "lie".
He said: “Congressman Jordan never saw or heard of any abuse, and if he had, he would have dealt with it.”
Another Republican who has come to the aid of Mr Gaetz is Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene who tweeted: "Remember all the conspiracy theories and lies like Trump/Russia collusion and propaganda that the media has spread around. Take it from me, rumors and headlines don’t equal truth. I stand with Matt Gaetz.”
Many establishment Republicans have remained quiet on the issue, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy telling Fox News on Wednesday: "Those are serious implications. If it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that's the case. But right now Matt Gaetz says that it's not true, and we don't have any information. So let's get all the information.”
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