The father of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz says that he wore a wire while working with the FBI in an attempt to uncover a purported $25 million extortion plot against his son, related to reported sex-trafficking allegations against the lawmaker.
Don Gaetz, himself a former Florida state senator, backed up his son’s counter-allegation of blackmail in an interview with Politico late Tuesday.
“The FBI asked me to try and get that information for Matt and an indication we would transfer money to Mr. David McGee,” the elder Gaetz told Politico, referring to a former Department of Justice official who Rep. Gaetz claims tried to extort him.
Both Rep. Gaetz and McGee, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice in Florida, have strongly denied any wrongdoing.
The dueling allegations began to fly Tuesday, when The New York Times reported that the younger Gaetz, 38, was under investigation by the DOJ for allegedly paying a 17-year-old girl with whom he had a sexual relationship to travel with him across state lines.
Gaetz, a Republican, told The Post that he denied the allegations “in the strongest possible terms” — then, during an appearance on Fox News, accused McGee by name of attempting to extort $25 million from his family to make the sex-trafficking accusations go away.
Gaetz went on to tell Fox that he and his father were working with the FBI on a separate investigation into the purported blackmail, that entailed his dad wearing a wire in an attempt to gather evidence against McGee.
Don Gaetz echoed that account to Politico, saying that he wore a wire during a meeting with McGee earlier this month — but noting that he voiced reservations because the operation would require him being recorded saying certain things that are untrue.
“I said to the FBI ‘I’m willing to wear a wire and be cooperative,’ but I was asked to say things that are not true to draw out an admission,” he told Politico, not specifying the nature of those “things.”
“I wanted there to be an understanding committed in writing that I’m working for the FBI and at their request, not operating on my own,” he continued.
To that end, Don Gaetz said that he asked his attorney, Jeffrey Neiman, to establish a record of the cooperation with David Goldberg, an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
Matt Gaetz shared with Politico a March 25 email sent from Goldberg to Neiman confirming the arrangement.
“I can confirm that your client is working with my office as well as the FBI at the government’s request in order to determine if a federal crime has been committed,” Goldberg reportedly wrote. “This has been discussed with, and approved by, the FBI as well as leadership in my office and components of main justice.”
Neiman did not respond to an email from Politico seeking comment, while a spokeswoman for the Northern District of Florida declined comment.
Don Gaetz went on to tell Politico that he was prepared to wear a wire a second time during a Wednesday meeting with Stephen Alford, a Florida developer who he claimed was also part of the alleged extortion scheme.
Gaetz said that that meeting fell apart when news broke of the sex-trafficking probe.
Alford did not respond to Politico’s attempts to reach him for comment.
McGee told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the allegations Rep. Gaetz lodged against him are “completely false,” characterizing them as “a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that he’s under investigation for sex trafficking of minors.”
The DOJ and FBI have not publicly commented on the existence of either investigation.