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‘Felt like a setup’: WhatsApp chat shows Gaetz ally struggling to contain fallout

Greenberg also said he was paying legal fees for the woman, who is now 20 years old.

The WhatsApp messages highlight key aspects of the scandal that devastated the Republican MP for Florida and close ally of President Donald Trump – and the state of mind of the man Gaetz once called his “wingman” as he was trying to manage the fallout.

Greenberg went so far as to push Gaetz to use his influence with Trump to secure a pardon, according to two sources familiar with the discussions, including one who overheard Greenberg repeating it repeatedly.

When asked about Greenberg’s request, Gaetz had previously refused to confirm or deny that this had happened. But the congressman said he did not ask Trump to forgive Greenberg. Gaetz could not be reached over the weekend to discuss the WhatsApp messages that are the subject of this story.

Gaetz’s allies are now concerned that Greenberg is preparing to strike a deal with prosecutors to rescue Gaetz, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing. The congressman has not been charged and so far no evidence has emerged against him beyond anonymous allegations that he had sex with a minor or paid for prostitutes. But the scandal has seriously hampered Gaetz, who has built a national reputation as one of Trump’s strongest supporters and has relentlessly attacked the same Justice Department that is currently investigating him.

Greenberg faces decades in prison on a total of 33 different charges, including identity theft, a host of financial crimes, and harassment of a political opponent he falsely characterized as a pedophile. But the alleged sex trafficking of the 17-year-old is the most serious charge and carries a mandatory minimum jail term of 10 years.

In the August 14 WhatsApp chat with a politically influential Republican mutual friend of Gaetz and Greenberg, Greenberg initially referred to the young woman as “Vintage 99” – a refined reference to her year of birth that she used as her name online on SeekingArrangement. , a dating site that connects women with so-called Sugar Daddies.

“I have to pay for the 99 vintage to keep [a] lawyer, ”Greenberg wrote in the WhatsApp chat to the friend, who discussed the messages with POLITICO on condition of anonymity. “They [federal agents] contacted her and want her to talk. She doesn’t want to talk to them.

She also doesn’t want to talk to the press. She blocked a POLITICO reporter on social media and her iPhone after being called and texted to discuss the case on Monday. His lawyer could not be reached. POLITICO retains her name because she is the alleged victim of a sexual crime.

Greenberg’s defense attorney, Fritz Scheller, said his client was not paying anyone else’s legal bills that he knew, and noted that he couldn’t talk about Greenberg’s arrangements until Scheller started. to represent the defendant in December.

Scheller suggested his client could strike a deal.

“I’m sure Matt Gaetz isn’t feeling very comfortable today,” Scheller said after an audition last Thursday.

It’s not illegal for a suspect to pay a potential witness’s legal bills against him, but lawyers say the arrangement could raise questions about the case against him.

“Imagine if it was a drug case and the drug lord paid the lawyer for a prosecution witness. What would people say? Said a lawyer representing a person who spoke to prosecutors in the case and who was not authorized to speak officially.

“Anytime you get something of value it’s a potential problem and you get arraigned. It can make a witness less credible, ”the lawyer said. “At the same time, to make this case [against Gaetz] work, the evidence just needs to be accumulated … They question everyone.

In the WhatsApp chat obtained by POLITICO, Greenberg told the friend his lawyer at the time informed him that “everyone will need a lawyer.” But the friend then called Greenberg’s attorney – and determined that Greenberg was not telling him the truth.

“I have nothing to do with anything and I think it’s unbelievably uncool that you try to confess me to be a part of it, Joel,” he replied via WhatsApp. “No. F — ing. Fresh.”

The friend told POLITICO that Greenberg’s message “Felt like a setup.”

“It’s the same playbook he used against the teacher he falsely called a pedophile,” the friend said, referring to a separate charge against Greenberg. “And he’ll do the same to Gaetz if he can get less jail time.”

Greenberg and Gaetz shared girlfriends, according to interviews with friends and associates who know the two men, and Greenberg introduced him to the young women he met on SeekingArrangement. A friend who spent time with the two men said he felt the two were engaging with women in more of a ‘sugar daddy’ relationship where money changed hands, although it is not explicitly prostitution.

“I know Joel and Matt paid some of their bills, rent, tuition, things like that,” the friend said. “That’s something that happens when you are successful and you have these relationships, ‘Aren’t we supposed to help these women who mean something to us and who are close to our hearts? Is it prostitution? Maybe if you’re a Puritan.

Given that many of the transactions in question have taken place on Venmo, Greenberg has speculated in his WhatsApp messages that these mobile payment records are likely proof. link with the woman allegedly sexually trafficked as a minor.

“I’m trying to let everyone who came in contact with any of these girls know that the federal government is going through my Venmo story and doesn’t want anyone caught off guard,” Greenberg wrote to his friend, who quickly responded that he wasn’t on Venmo, had no such history with any of these women and begged him to “leave my name absolutely positively out of it all.” I’m serious about this Joel.

“Got it,” Greenberg replied. “My only concern is that I don’t know what might come out of their mouths, and if any of them mentioned places where we met etc. I think you’d want to at least have a warning if a girl says she’s been partying at your house or something. That’s all. I try to cover every possible angle I can think of. I wouldn’t want anyone to be caught off guard.

The friend insisted that he had nothing to do with what Greenberg was describing and was not involved in his plans.

“I know you’re not. I didn’t mean to alarm you. You haven’t done anything wrong, ”Greenberg replied.

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