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How Gaetz climbed the ranks in Trump’s Washington

And on Friday, Gaetz is protecting plans for a longstanding talking engagement that can unfold squarely in the public eye. It simply so occurs to be situated at the Trump National Doral golf resort, the Miami property of the former president himself.

Gaetz’s response to the FBI investigation into whether or not the GOP congressman broke federal intercourse trafficking legal guidelines and had a relationship with a 17-year-old lady is paying homage to the combative path that Gaetz has taken from the Florida statehouse to the US Capitol as he turned one Trump’s congressional allies.

The son of a outstanding Florida politician and businessman, Gaetz arrived in Washington in 2017 together with Trump and shortly centered his consideration not on forging relationships in Congress and passing laws however on constructing his private model, occurring tv and getting near the new president.

“He really jumped on the Trump train and rode it all the way to the end,” stated one former Gaetz aide, who agreed to talk candidly about workplace dynamics on the situation of anonymity. “As time went on, there was a noticeable shift of focus — more so to what can I do to get on Fox at night? … Once he had a little taste of that, he couldn’t shake it anymore, that became the focus of the office.”

It was a method that led to presidential Twitter shoutouts, journeys on Air Force One and a daily spot in Fox News’ primetime visitor lineup. But his brash model courting controversy and his popularity surrounding girls turned off a lot of his Republican colleagues, GOP lawmakers and aides say.

Gaetz now has few GOP allies talking out on his behalf as the federal investigation hangs over his head. Most Republicans are staying quiet.

Gaetz takes a selfie with then-President Donald Trump in the House chamber after Trump's State of the Union address in January 2018.
Gaetz is near Trump, even getting engaged in December at his Mar-a-Lago resort. But the former President, who praised Gaetz for defending him by quite a few controversies and two impeachments, hasn’t been desirous to reciprocate. After The New York Times, CNN and others reported this week that Gaetz sought a preemptive pardon — a spokesperson for Gaetz denied to the Times it was associated to the Justice Department investigation — Trump issued a terse assertion.

“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” Trump stated. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

Like Trump, Gaetz has not been shy about his sexual exploits, bragging about them alongside together with his entry to the President in his e book launched final yr. Gaetz even stated he took a name from Trump whereas “in the throes of passion.”

“There’s nothing like watching the sunrise while kissing in a hot tub with a Secret Service perimeter protecting you,” Gaetz wrote in the e book a couple of get together at Mar-a-Lago.

While Gaetz has acknowledged his background is much from excellent, he has denied a relationship with a 17-year-old or breaking some other legal guidelines. “My lifestyle of yesteryear may be different from how I live now, but it was not and is not illegal,” Gaetz wrote in the op-ed.

‘Baby Gaetz,’ born in Hollywood, Florida

Gaetz was born in Hollywood, Florida, and grew up in the panhandle, the place his childhood house had a novel distinction: It was used as the home to movie the film “The Truman Show.”

“In the mid-90s, one day some producer just shows up in a golf cart and tells my mother that they want to make a movie in this house starring Jim Carrey,” Gaetz stated in the HBO documentary “The Swamp.”

Jim Carrey in "The Truman Show," 1998. Gaetz's childhood home was used for the movie.
Gaetz’s mom, Vicky Gaetz, is partially paralyzed after she suffered extreme issues whereas pregnant together with his sister. He instructed The Washington Post in 2018 it is one motive he believes abortion ought to be unlawful, after his mom was suggested to terminate the being pregnant and didn’t achieve this.

His father, Don Gaetz, made tens of millions in 2004 promoting the hospice firm that he had based. Don Gaetz was elected to the state Senate in 2006 and would rise to Senate president in 2012 earlier than leaving workplace in 2016 on account of time period limits.

The youthful Gaetz graduated from William and Mary legislation college and labored as an legal professional in Florida for a number of years earlier than he joined his father in the state House in 2010 when he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives.

In this March 2014 file photo, then-Fort Walton Beach Rep. Matt Gaetz, answers a question during discussion of House Bill 843 - Cannabis at a Criminal Justice Subcommittee meeting in Tallahassee, Florida.
Gaetz started cementing his brash popularity in Tallahassee, the place he additionally was given the moniker “Baby Gaetz” whereas working alongside his father, based on native media studies.
“If you want to live in a state where you can ride around in your Uber, with your sidearm on your side, picking your fantasy lineup, on your way to a potential cannabis treatment, that’s the type of liberty environment I want to live in,” Gaetz stated at a 2016 Chamber of Commerce occasion.

Trump’s ‘warrior’ arrives in Washington and runs towards controversy

When former Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller introduced he was retiring from Congress in 2016, Gaetz jumped into and received a crowded GOP main, sending him to Congress in 2017.

As the investigation surrounding Trump and Russia unfolded throughout Gaetz’ first yr in workplace, Gaetz was a part of a bunch of vocal Republicans attacking then-special counsel Robert Mueller, successful his good graces with Trump.

Then-freshman Congressman Matt Gaetz works with staff in office on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Wednesday February 14, 2018.

Gaetz additionally made a concerted effort to get on tv, one other key avenue to succeed in Trump.

“Speaker of the House Paul Ryan once knocked me for going on TV too much, without considering that maybe his own failures as a leader stemmed from spending too much time in think tanks instead of in the green rooms where guests wait to appear on TV, and are thereby connected to the dinnertime of real Americans,” Gaetz wrote in his e book.

Gaetz courted controversy in quite a few methods, incomes him notoriety in the House — together with tv appearances in conservative media.

In 2018, he was criticized after he invited a conservative troll with a historical past of Holocaust denial to the State of the Union.

A yr later, Gaetz threatened Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen forward of his 2019 House testimony, tweeting, “Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat.”

He was admonished by the House Ethics Committee and investigated and cleared by the Florida Bar over the tweet, which he deleted and apologized for.

During the House’s first impeachment inquiry, Gaetz led a band of Republicans in a stunt to “storm” the House Intelligence safe committee areas the place the impeachment interviews had been being held. And final yr, Gaetz wore a fuel masks on the House ground to vote on a coronavirus funding package deal.

Gaetz questions witnesses at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the impeachment of US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in December 2019.
Gaetz is best recognized for his stunts than legislating, however one vote has attracted renewed consideration in the wake of the DOJ investigation. In 2017, Gaetz was the solely member of Congress to vote towards an anti-human trafficking invoice, laws that Trump signed into legislation. Defending his vote towards the laws at the time, Gaetz stated in a Facebook video he was against the elements of the laws that referred to as for extra federal involvement, and that his vote was not about human trafficking.
Gaetz’s antics have received him reward from Trump, though Trump was briefly indignant with Gaetz final yr over his assist of an Iran conflict powers decision to curb the President’s energy.

“They are our warriors,” Trump stated of Gaetz and different House members at a September 2020 rally in Jupiter, Florida. “You see what they do? They have to fight Pelosi, Schumer, they have to fight all these characters. And they do very well in the fights. We want them on our side.”

‘He understands the nature of the Republican Party’

Behind the scenes in the House, Gaetz did not make many buddies in the House Republican convention, whereas the backbench congressman turned considered one of the most common lawmakers to seem on Fox News, going round the conventional energy constructions on Capitol Hill.

Gaetz’s additionally gained a popularity in the House involving his relationships with girls, together with displaying footage of nude girls he stated he slept with to his colleagues, sources instructed CNN.

The workers of then-House Speaker Paul Ryan had a gathering with Gaetz in his first time period to remind him about appearing professionally whereas in Congress, based on two sources. One supply stated the dialog wasn’t tied to a selected incident. A Gaetz spokesperson denied the assembly happened.

Gaetz has been greater than keen to tackle his get together leaders — notably those that cross Trump.

Gaetz leaves the Wyoming State Capitol after speaking to a crowd during a rally against Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) on January 28, 2021 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Gaetz added his voice to a growing effort to vote Cheney out of office after she voted in favor of impeaching Donald Trump.

He echoed Trump’s lies about the 2020 election being stolen and even defended Trump in the hours after the lethal January 6 rebellion at the Capitol. When House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming voted to question Trump in January, Gaetz did not simply criticize her — he traveled to Wyoming to carry a rally denouncing her.

Gaetz’s defenders argue he represents Republican voters higher than get together leaders.

“He understands the nature of the Republican Party, loves the base of the Republican Party, he listens to them,” stated Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a congressional candidate who didn’t overlap with Gaetz in the Florida statehouse however has grow to be buddies with him. “And I find that very commendable because most of the politicians don’t listen to the people.”

Coming to an embattled Democrat’s protection

Gaetz has typically sparred with Democrats, together with a notable 2020 trade with former Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana at a listening to following the dying of George Floyd. “Are you suggesting that you’re certain that none of us have nonwhite children? Because you reflect on your Black son, and you say none of us could understand” Gaetz stated.

A day later, Gaetz, who’s single, tweeted that he had raised a 19-year-old adult son, Nestor, the brother of an ex-girlfriend who immigrated from Cuba when he was 12.

But Gaetz additionally got here to the protection of an embattled Democrat, then-Rep. Katie Hill of California, when she resigned in 2019 over a relationship with a marketing campaign staffer, when nude images of her had been leaked with out her consent.

Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) answers questions from reporters at the U.S. Capitol following her final speech on the floor of the House of Representatives October 31, 2019.
“This is absurd,” Gaetz tweeted in response to the House Ethics Committee opening up an investigation. “Who among us would look perfect if every ex leaked every photo/text?”
This week, as the Gaetz allegations unfolded in public view, Hill wrote an op-ed noting that Gaetz was considered one of the few lawmakers to face up for her. “At one of the darkest moments of my life, when I was feeling more alone than I ever had, Matt stood up for me — and that really mattered,” she wrote.

But Hill additionally wrote that Gaetz had “engaged in the very practice he’d defended me from” by reportedly sharing pictures of nude girls, and he ought to be held accountable if the allegations towards him are confirmed.

“If there is even a fraction of truth to these reports,” Hill wrote, “he should resign immediately.”

CNN’s Michael Conte contributed to this report.

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