It’s an unorthodox strategy that former prosecutors and defense attorneys have called questionable and perhaps even counterproductive, as Gaetz’s talks this week risk feeding prosecutors fodder as they build a possible trafficking case against him. But Gaetz’s path, they said, is being followed well by politicians who are more concerned with the court of public opinion than the courtroom – no more visibly than the former president Gaetz defended. Politics.
“It looks to me like he’s digging a deeper hole,” David Weinstein, former US deputy attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said of Gaetz. “His statements yesterday appear to have given credence to the allegations, not to have dismissed them.”
Since the first report that he was facing a Justice Department investigation into the potential trafficking of an underage girl, Gaetz has channeled the former president as he tried to explain the investigation. One of Gaetz’s claims is eerily similar to Trump’s response to the federal inquiry into his ties to Russia: it is all part of a denigration orchestrated by the DOJ, the congressman said, destined to do so. silence a prominent curator.
Other Gaetz responses served as additional distractions, all without definitive proof or refutation of the trafficking allegation he faces: it is an elaborate extortion plot, he says, intended to defraud his wealthy man. family of millions of people. Oh, and the DOJ once tried to convince a former romantic interest to sideline him with a fee-for-service scandal, he adds.
And by the way, Gaetz says, his father was planning to wear a thread to catch the current extortionists, one of whom had a bizarre request related to the release of an American hostage in Iran.
That’s how the first 24 hours of Gaetz’s ongoing media blitz unfolded, which began minutes after The New York Times published the first article on the trafficking investigation.
Along the way, he admitted that he carried romantic interests across state lines, paying for their trip, but insisted that the young women were all of legal age and that he was simply chivalrous. These comments, legal experts have said, go against the typical defense strategy of denying the claims and being low.
There is a world in which this strategy could be effective, said William Jeffress, who represented former Dick Cheney Scooter Libby assistant against charges of flight – but it can backfire on him as well.
“An aggressive leave-it-it-all strategy can be very effective if one is very sure of the evidence that will come out. If the tapes back up Gaetz on the extortion allegation, it might be justified, even if the The teenager’s testimony is incriminating (as I have to believe, since the DOJ launched an investigation), ”Jeffress said.“ But if the extortion allegation is not convincing, his credibility is shot down and his problem is more serious than it should be. “
But one thing the Trump era has also proven is that unless you’re Donald Trump and sit in the White House, his strategy doesn’t work as well.
“You never know the strength of the government’s thesis or all the details of the government’s investigation. You could end up unnecessarily admitting a key fact or making an exculpatory false statement, ”said Sol Wisenberg, a white-collar criminal defense attorney and former assistant to Ken Starr’s office of independent lawyers. “However, officials and celebrities often decide to take this risk for the survival of their careers.”
True, Gaetz has fiercely denied the allegations made against him. “I’m not asking for forgiveness. I didn’t do anything wrong or wrong, ”Gaetz told Tucker Carlson Tuesday night. The second-year GOP lawmaker later told POLITICO he did not ask his ally Trump for forgiveness until the former president left office.
But by posing as the victim of a conspiracy against the Tories, Gaetz overlooked the fact that the investigation into him began under the tenure of Trump-era Attorney General Bill Barr, who instituted new policies demanding that any inquiry into a candidate for a post is informed. to the Attorney General himself. Barr had given the investigation at least one unspoken blessing last summer and, according to sources, avoided a private meeting with members of the House Judiciary Committee last year in part to avoid clashing with Gaetz.
Legal experts said Gaetz’s strategy was baffling in part because he had now publicly admitted a central part of the case against him – that he had paid for women to cross state borders – even if he says it was in pursuit of legitimate romantic interests. Additionally, in his haste to turn away from the news, Gaetz may have damaged any ongoing extortion investigation by revealing it.
Gaetz said the investigation into the alleged extortion plot had already been destroyed when sources informed The New York Times of the ongoing investigation into his conduct.
Trump, of course, transformed the post-scandal be-tout strategy into a personal brand. As his presidency shifted from one crisis to another – including several that posed a clear legal risk to Trump himself – the then president would flinch, deflect, and even attempt to turn the tide on those pursuing him, accusing them of criminal conduct or worse. Relying heavily on friendly media, Trump would buy time and air coverage until he could overcome the chaos of the moment.
For example, Trump lambasted Justice Department officials who influenced the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. He slammed the judges who spoke out against him in major 2020 election cases. And he mocked Stormy Daniels as a “jerk” as details of a Trump-approved payment to silence her about their bond began to emerge.
So far, Gaetz continues to enjoy the support of his colleagues in the GOP. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told reporters he believed in Gaetz’s refusal. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), A follower of Trump herself who is no stranger to conspiracy theories, presented the case against Gaetz as part of a longstanding propaganda battle. against undisclosed enemies.
“Remember all the conspiracy theories and lies like collusion and Trump / Russia propaganda that the media has been spreading,” Greene tweeted. “Believe me rumors and headlines don’t equate to the truth. I’m with @mattgaetz. “
GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy has said he will keep Gaetz on his committees – including the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the FBI and DOJ – unless the allegations turn out to be “true.”
“These are serious implications,” McCarthy told Fox News Wednesday. “If that turned out to be true, we would delete it. At the moment he says that is not true and that we have no information. let’s get all the information. “
House rules, however, require lawmakers to relinquish their committee positions if they face felony charges.
The extortion attempt that Gaetz alleges appears to have credibility, born out of emails showing Gaetz and his father were working with the FBI to expose the scheme. Nonetheless, this effort has little bearing on whether the trafficking case against Gaetz is confirmed.
It is not known if Gaetz, a lawyer, has hired a lawyer to represent him in this case. But if he does, it’s easy to predict what one might say.
“Most lawyers would advise a client under investigation to remain silent,” said Barb McQuade, a former US lawyer in the Eastern District of Michigan.