WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Wednesday that the allegations in a news report that Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is under investigation by the Department of Justice over whether he had a sexual relationship with a minor and paid for her to travel with him are “serious” and the GOP leader plans to speak with him.
In an interview with Fox News, McCarthy said he hadn’t heard from the Justice Department, which The New York Times reported Tuesday night was investigating Gaetz and the allegations.
“I just read the story. Those are serious implications,” McCarthy said.
Asked if he would take any action against Gaetz, such as removing him from the Judiciary Committee as Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif, has demanded, the GOP leader said, “If it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that were the case. Right now, Matt Gaetz says it is not true, and we don’t have any information. So, let’s get all the information.”
McCarthy said he hopes to speak Wednesday afternoon with Gaetz.
In a statement Tuesday night on Twitter, Gaetz vehemently denied the allegations reported by the Times. The Florida Republican claimed he and his family were the victims of a $25 million extortion plot involving a former Justice Department official and that he was cooperating with federal officials.
“No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation,” Gaetz said. “I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations.”
The report by the Times, however, said that federal investigators are looking into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and broke federal sex trafficking laws. Such laws make it a crime to induce someone under the age of 18 to travel for sex in exchange for something of value.
The inquiry into Gaetz, a rising star in the GOP and a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under then-Attorney General Bill Barr, according to the Times.
Dartunorro Clark contributed.