The recommendation comes in part because prosecutors question whether central witnesses in the lengthy inquest would be seen as credible in front of a jury, the source said.
Senior Justice Department officials have not made a final decision on whether to charge Gaetz, the source said. CNN previously reported that the department faces an impending deadline to file charges so as not to interfere with an election, which is required under Justice Department policy. Gaetz is re-elected in November.
The Florida congressman was being investigated over allegations of sex trafficking and prostitution, including whether Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl. Gaetz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
There have been indications that the Justice Department file could be in trouble. In July, prosecutors agreed to allow a key witness and collaborator in the investigation, Gaetz’s close friend Joel Greenberg, to proceed with sentencing in December on charges including soliciting sex from a minor. . The Justice Department had requested repeated delays in his sentencing in anticipation of its assistance with the Gaetz investigation.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
The Washington Post first reported the federal prosecutors’ recommendation.
An attorney for Gaetz told CNN on Friday that they have not received official word from the department regarding a charging decision.
A spokesperson for the congressman said, “Those who told lies about Rep. Matt Gaetz are going to jail, and Rep. Matt Gaetz is returning to Congress to continue fighting for America.”
Gaetz has sought a preemptive presidential pardon from Donald Trump, said an aide to the former president on the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. John McEntee, who served as director of the White House presidential personnel office, said he interpreted the request as being in the context of the DOJ investigation.
According to McEntee, Gaetz said the Justice Department was trying to “make his life hell” and that it would be “great” if he could be pardoned.
Prosecutors have continued to build their case over the past year, recruiting several people associated with Gaetz to cooperate with the investigation. A key cooperator, his ex-girlfriend who worked on Capitol Hill and had been linked to Gaetz since the summer of 2017, testified before a Florida grand jury in January.
Greenberg, a former Florida County tax officer, pleaded guilty to six counts last year. He had told the Justice Department about encounters he and Gaetz had with women who had received money or gifts in exchange for sex, CNN reported.
CNN’s Tierney Sneed and Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.