Florida GOP congressman and Trump loyalist Matt Gaetz may or may not have committed a crime connected with what we've learned from media reports: That he's being investigated by the Justice Department for sex-trafficking, which also might involve a 17-year-old girl, and, according to the the Daily Beast late last week, that he paid money to an accused sex trafficker, who then venmo'd money to a teen.
But it does appear as if he's anticipated, perhaps for years, that he one day might be the target of sexual allegations. With even Donald Trump now reportedly refusing a meeting with Gaetz, every day seems to bring new evidence of that.
Matt Gaetz is denied a meeting with Donald Trump - CNNPolitics https://t.co/3JRykTHN64— Daniel Uhlfelder (@Daniel Uhlfelder)1618188574.0
Private nude photos from the past of the openly bisexual California Democrat with her then-husband — from whom she'd become estranged by 2019 — and another woman were published without her permission in a British tabloid while reports surfaced about Hill's involvement in a then recent inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.
"Who among us would look perfect if every ex leaked every photo/text?" Gaetz tweeted in response at the time.
This is just absurd. The only person who seems to have a gripe is @RepKatieHill’s soon-to-be ex. Who among us wou… https://t.co/augRT71bCT— Matt Gaetz (@Matt Gaetz)1571918461.0
So, a right-wing Republican was defending a progressive Democrat targeted by people trying to hurt her career via sexual allegations? And this was Matt Gaetz, the original MAGA attack dog.
It smelled back then, and it stinks to high heaven now.
Gaetz conveniently is using that defense of Hill in his own current defense. He vehemently denied the sex-trafficking allegations and illegal interactions with a minor in an op-ed, claiming the "swamp" is trying to take him down:
I defended Rep. Katie Hill's "throuple" when her own Democratic colleagues wouldn't. I just didn't think it was anyone's business.
Of course, that defense is absurd, and insulting to Hill — comparing apples to oranges — but it is curious. And the curiosities don't end there. Gaetz, who, according to a recent CNN report, shared sexually explicit photos and videos of women (with whom he had allegedly had sex) with colleagues on the House floor — among several issues the House Ethics Committee is now investigating — killed a revenge porn bill when he was in the Florida House of the Representatives in 2014.
That is, he killed a bill that makes it a crime to share sexually explicit photos of others without their consent. The bill had passed the State Senate, but, according to the Orlando Sentinel, a House committee chaired by Gaetz wouldn't take it up. When the bill did get a vote in both chambers a year later, only Gaetz and his roommate, Republican state Rep. John Tobia, voted against it.
The former lawmaker who sponsored the bill, Republican Tom Goodson, told the Sentinel last week that he'd met with Gaetz at the time, who explained why he was voting no:
Matt was absolutely against it. He thought the picture was his to do with what he wanted…He thought that any picture was his to use as he wanted to, as an expression of his rights.
Since Gaetz reportedly shared photos on the U.S. House floor of his sex partners, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he's been doing that for years, even before he was in the Florida Legislature.
It might seem stupid to block or vote against a revenge porn bill — especially since it will pass overwhelmingly anyway, and your vote will stand out — but it might insulate you from being exposed for hypocrisy if a reporter found out you did in fact share photos without consent. (Or at least, a guilty legislator might think that was a good strategy.)
And that brings us to Gaetz being the only U.S. House member to vote against a human-trafficking bill in 2017. Why would you bring that kind of attention to yourself? Did Gaetz again possibly calculate that it was better to vote against the bill and have a high-minded reason in case any other information one day was alleged? At the time, he said he voted against the bill because it was an example of "mission creep," and an "expansion of the federal government," and that he wasn't sent to Congress "to create more federal government."
Those statements reflect the Trumpian suspicion of the federal government that fuels the paranoia of anti-government groups — like those that attacked the Capitol on January 6th — and conspiracies about a dangerous "deep state" cabal in the federal government trying to take down conservatives and, in particular, Trumpists like Gaetz. Is it any wonder then that Gaetz over the weekend suggested that he is a victim — a "wanted man" — of the "deep state" that may be trying to destroy him?
It's as if the very skepticism he expressed about the human-trafficking bill in 2017 — the supposed danger of big government — now fits neatly with his defense in 2021. And that will help him keep his paranoid, anti-government Trumpian following loyal to him and refusing to believe contrary evidence, even if more damning facts are revealed in coming days and weeks.