Democratic California Congressman Ted Lieu called for the removal of Florida Republican Matt Gaetz from the House judiciary committee after The New York Times reported that Mr Gaetz is under investigation by the Department of Justice for allegedly having had an intimate relationship with a 17-year-old girl.
Mr Lieu told MSNBC: “There is a very serious federal investigation opened under the Trump administration. And I’m a former prosecutor. They don’t just do this out of nothing.
“There’s got to be a factual predicate, and the Department of Justice is going to be a whole team of federal agents and prosecutors investigating Matt Gaetz. So he’s in some deep trouble and that’s why he needs to be removed from the House Judiciary Committee.”
Mr Gaetz has denied the allegations which state that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him, The New York Times reported.
He put out a statement, saying: “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.
“The planted leak to the New York Times tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations.”
Other Republicans have anonymously blasted Mr Gaetz down in a GOP group, according to Insider. A former Trump White House aide called Mr Gaetz the “meanest person in politics” and said that other former Trump aides “feel a little vindicated” by the congressman’s situation. Another former official said he looked forward to seeing Mr Gaetz “completely implode in a matter of days”.
Mr Gaetz went after Mr Lieu on Fox News, saying: “Ted Lieu, a Democrat is calling on me to be removed from the House Judiciary Committee. And I believe we are in an era of our politics now... where people are smeared to try to take them out of the conversation.”
Mr Lieu told MSNBC: “The tales that Matt Gaetz spins get crazier and crazier...right now we have this situation... where you have a sitting member of Congress, Matt Gaetz, on the House Judiciary Committee that has oversight of the very department that’s investigating him.
“That’s an untenable situation. And Matt Gaetz either should leave the Judiciary Committee voluntarily or he should be removed until the investigation is completed.”
Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox News: “If it comes out to be true, yes we would remove him… let’s get all the information.”
Mr Lieu responded to Mr McCarthy, tweeting: “You don’t seem to get it. If it’s true Rep Matt Gaetz engaged in sex trafficking, he needs to resign and be prosecuted.”
Juanita Broaddrick, who in 1999 accused Bill Clinton of raping her in 1978 and identifies as a “proud Trump supporter” in her Twitter bio, wrote on the platform that “this Matt Gaetz thing is simply a Democrat diversion to take attention off the border crisis and the utter incompetence of the Biden Administration”.
Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted: “The DOJ needs to release the tapes instead of allowing another witch hunt to take place.”
She added: “Remember all the conspiracy theories and lies like Trump/Russia collusion and propaganda that the media has spread around. Take it from me rumours and headlines don’t equal truth. I stand with [Matt Gaetz].”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies