Before news about the Justice Department's investigation into sex crimes allegedly committed by Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz broke, the controversial lawmaker was the center of a separate internal fight at the agency, POLITICO reports.
The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida, Larry Keefe, who was nominated by former president Donald Trump, looked to open a wide-ranging probe into voter fraud in Florida just before Joe Biden was sworn in as president. The Public Integrity Section at the DOJ's headquarters thought the scope of the proposed investigation was too broad, prompting Keefe to turn to Gaetz, who in turn took Keefe's concerns to Trump.
"I said to him that an appreciation for the Keefe position on venue would give good U.S. attorneys in every capitol city the necessary jurisdiction to root out fraud," Gaetz said, according to POLITICO. "I also shared with President Trump that Keefe had faced substantial resistance from the Department of Justice."
Gaetz said that Trump then told White House counsel Pat Cipollone to pass Gaetz's message on to then-Attorney General William Barr. But when Barr learned of Gaetz's conversation with Trump, he was "incensed," POLITICO reports.
"If I ever hear of you talking to Gaetz or any other congressman again about business before the Department, I am going to f*cking fire your ass," Barr told Keefe.
Gaetz claimed to know nothing about the heated exchange.
"I am unaware of any discussion Barr had with Keefe," he told POLITICO, "but I did get a message from Keefe subsequent to my meeting in the Oval wherein Keefe said he was not going to be able to discuss these matters with me, and I got the sense that the politics of the Department of Justice were such that they did not want U.S. attorneys looking for election fraud in this type of very proactive way."
Read the full report over at POLITICO.