Matt Gaetz asked White House for blanket preemptive pardon
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Congressman Matt Gaetz, a close ally of former President Trump, asked the White House for a blanket preemptive pardon before Mr. Trump left office, two sources familiar with the situation confirm to CBS News.
One of the sources said Gaetz asked for the blanket preemptive pardon for both himself and other congressional allies. The source noted that Gaetz and a few others couched the request broadly, implying that anyone close to Mr. Trump should receive a preemptive pardon because “the left is ruthless.” The New York Times first reported Gaetz asked the White House for a pardon.
“Clearly, Gaetz was protecting his own hide and was pursuing a ‘safety in numbers,’ ‘we’re all martyrs’ strategy without revealing a DOJ investigation!” the source told CBS News.
Gaetz is facing allegations of a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and is reportedly under investigation by the Justice Department for potential violations of sex trafficking laws. A CNN report also claims he showed other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women, including while on the House floor. Gaetz insists he’s innocent and says he isn’t resigning from Congress.
“I have not had a relationship with a 17-year-old. That is totally false,” the Florida congressman told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in a recent interview. “That is false and records will bear that out to be false.”
Mr. Trump has denied that Gaetz asked him personally for a pardon, although the president’s statement didn’t specifically say whether Gaetz had asked the White House for a pardon.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon. It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him,” the ex-president said in a statement.
But the source who said Gaetz couched his request broadly said the congressman clearly “wanted it to be a one-off request that was not made directly to POTUS.” The source noted that Steve Bannon used a similar tactic by not appealing to Mr. Trump directly. Bannon was one of more than 70 people who Mr. Trump pardoned in the early hours of Inauguration Day.
The source also said then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows did not dissuade Gaetz from making the request.
The other source confirming the request noted that “everyone” was asking for a pardon in Mr. Trump’s final days, referring it to a “blitz” of sorts.
Gaetz has been one of Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters, defending him on television even after the January 6 riot at the Capitol. Mr. Trump has been silent through Gaetz’ recent ordeal until now.
Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.