The Florida Republican said in a statement to CNN that “no part of the allegations against me are true” and that the claims were being pushed by people who are targets of an “ongoing extortion investigation.”
“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 claimed.
“The planted leak to the FBI 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,” Gaetz added.
The Department of Justice declined to comment, and the FBI in Florida did not respond to a request for comment.
The statement came after the New York Times reported that three people briefed on the matter said that the US Department of Justice’s investigation is part of a broader investigation.
The people told the Times that as part of this broader probe, investigators are looking at whether Gaetz, a high profile ally of former President Donald Trump, violated federal sex trafficking laws — something that could carry severe legal repercussions. No charges have been filed against Gaetz, the Times reported.
Two of the people told the newspaper the encounters investigators are looking at took place two years ago. The investigation had been opened by former Attorney General William Barr in the final months of the Trump administration, the people told the Times.
Gaetz told the newspaper in an interview that his lawyers had been in contact with the Justice Department.
“I only know that it has to do with women,” Gaetz told the Times. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”
The investigation of Gaetz, the three people told the newspaper, is part of a larger probe of former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg who was indicted last year on a series of sex trafficking charges. The Times reported he pleaded not guilty.
Elected in 2016, Gaetz rose to national prominence in recent years as one of Trump’s most vocal defenders.