Gaetz, a loyal foot soldier for former President Donald Trump and a Fox News darling, is engulfed in a scandal. The Justice Department is investigating whether or not Gaetz engaged in a relationship with a 17-year-old lady, whether or not he was concerned with different younger ladies, and whether or not he broke federal intercourse trafficking and prostitution legal guidelines, in accordance to individuals briefed on the matter.
Investigators have additionally examined whether or not federal marketing campaign cash was concerned in paying for journey and bills for the ladies, one supply mentioned. Gaetz mentioned “no part of the allegations against me are true.” He denied that he paid any lady for intercourse, insisting that the 17-year-old lady doesn’t exist, and that he was the sufferer of an organized prison extortion plot, which the FBI is investigating individually.
Sources additionally advised CNN that Gaetz bragged about his sexual escapades on Capitol Hill and confirmed different lawmakers nude photographs and movies of ladies he mentioned he slept with. (There isn’t any indication these photos are linked to the Justice Department investigation.)
On Friday, Gaetz’s workplace issued an announcement saying he and his communications director had parted methods, with out giving a proof as to why.
This scandal has developed at a breakneck pace. But will his profession come to an finish? And will the GOP take successful consequently?
The reply remains to be unclear. To make sure, there’s a lengthy historical past of politicians who’ve had to face up to their very own career-ending misconduct, with the fallout typically occurring to harm their events. Arkansas Democratic Rep. Wilbur Mills initially survived a scandal in October 1974 when he was present in a automobile with Annabel Battistella, a stripper who glided by the stage identify Fanne Fox and was billed as the “Argentine Firecracker.” Mills went on to win reelection, however Democrats pressured him into resigning after he appeared drunk on stage with Battistella at a membership in Boston. His downfall helped younger Democrats push by reforms that weakened the standing of senior southern Democratic committee chairs who had lengthy dominated the roost.
In 1976, Ohio Democrat Wayne Hays stepped down after the Washington Post broke a narrative about his mistress, a 27-year-old clerk named Elizabeth Ray who acquired a taxpayer-funded wage despite the fact that she admitted she could not kind, file or perform as a receptionist. The profession of Maryland Republican Bob Bauman, a champion of the non secular proper and a founding father of the American Conservative Union, went down in flames in 1980 when he was accused of soliciting intercourse from a 16-year-old boy (these prices had been later dropped after he accomplished six-months of counseling for alcoholism).
In 1989, Republican Congressman Donald “Buz” Lukens of Ohio was convicted of getting intercourse with a 16-year-old lady, which torpedoed his profession and paved the means for John Boehner to win his seat in the 1990 election. In 2006, Florida Republican Mark Foley issued an apology and abruptly resigned after news stories detailed express messages he despatched to teenaged male pages. His downfall helped Democrats regain management of the House in 2006.
Yet there’s additionally an extended historical past of politicians who survived their scandals, typically with little greater than an apology. In 1978, for occasion, New York Democrat Fred Richmond was ready to save his profession regardless of having been arrested for soliciting intercourse from a 16-year-old boy. Rather than denying the occasions, he mentioned he was sorry, admitted to a misdemeanor morals cost — which was later dropped — and gained reelection. (His profession later fell aside when he grew to become embroiled in a monetary scandal.)
Though the House censured Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Gerry Studds in 1983 for his relationship with a 17-year-old House web page, he remained in workplace till 1997. In 1993, police caught California Republican Ken Calvert in a automobile with a prostitute. (Calvert apologized for “inappropriate” conduct and insisted that he did not know the lady was for rent.) He gained reelection and stays a member of Congress to today.
The allegations in opposition to Gaetz, who’s thus far refusing to resign, increase a number of purple flags for his political future. Politicians accused of criminality, after all, have all the time confronted crises of credibility — not to point out the chance of prosecution, conviction and jail time. Meanwhile, the #MeToo motion has highlighted in newer years the pernicious results of sexual harassment and misconduct, together with abuses of energy in the office.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi steered the Ethics Committee launch an investigation into Gaetz and mentioned if the allegations had been true, “being removed from the Judiciary Committee is the least that could be done.” And whereas Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy mentioned there have been “serious implications” and that Gaetz would be stripped of his committee positions if the allegations had been discovered to be true, he appeared to settle for the Florida congressman’s phrase for the time being. “Right now Matt Gaetz says it is not true and we don’t have any information,” McCarthy mentioned. “Let’s get all the information.”
Gaetz’s largest firewall, nevertheless, could also be the Republican Party itself. The GOP has proven that there’s appreciable leeway allowed for poorly behaved males who’re vital to the social gathering. The loyalty and help Republicans confirmed to former President Donald Trump — from the “Access Hollywood” tapes to the quite a few allegations of sexual assault and misconduct levied in opposition to him —- made that clear.
While the House is at present in recess, there was relative silence from the GOP about Gaetz — aside from fellow Republicans
Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan, who’ve publicly proclaimed their help for him.
Gaetz additionally has Fox News, in addition to a whole ecosystem of conservative media that will nonetheless supply him help. Despite Gaetz’s odd interview with Tucker Carlson this week, throughout which he addressed the claims and denied their veracity, Fox News has not coated the scandal extensively on air. But it is not onerous to think about that protection of the Gaetz story may veer into conspiracy theories provided on his behalf, particularly given the congressman’s claims that the allegations are a part of an extortion plot.
The Gaetz scandal shall be one other take a look at to see how far Republicans are keen to go to defend their very own. Over the previous four-and-a-half years, we’ve repeatedly witnessed how the immense energy of partisanship inside the GOP overwhelms its ethical considerations — regardless of the social gathering’s widespread help amongst evangelical Christians. As lengthy as Gaetz is taken into account beneficial to the social gathering — and a serious participant amongst Trump supporters — it is a protected wager that the fashionable GOP will stand by his aspect till the bitter finish.
After Trump, it’s clear the Republican Party appears keen to defend nearly anybody in the identify of energy. Gaetz’s political future rests not on the morality of his actions, however how a lot energy he can deliver to the social gathering. If the scandal begins to eclipse his worth, it’s at that time the Republican Party will escort Gaetz to the door.