Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl) reportedly sought a blanket preemptive pardon from the White House in the final weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, the New York Times reports.
Gaetz asked the White House for a pardon for him and unidentified congressional allies, two people familiar with the discussion told The Times.
The Times noted that it was not clear whether Gaetz directly addressed the matter with Trump, though aides were said to have relayed the request.
The request came around the same time that Gaetz told Fox News that Trump “ought to wield that pardon power effectively and robustly.”
“President Trump should pardon Michael Flynn, he should pardon the Thanksgiving Turkey, he should pardon anyone from himself to his administration officials to Joe exotic if he has to,” Gaetz told Fox News host Sean Hannity in December. “You see from the radical left a bloodlust that will only be quenched if they come after the people who worked so hard to animate the Trump Administration with the policies, vigor and effectiveness that delivered for the American people. I think the president ought to wield that pardon power effectively and robustly.”
The Justice Department had started questioning Gaetz’s associates about whether he had a sexual relationship with an underage girl that also violated sex trafficking laws, at the time when was advocating for a broad swath of pardons.
But, it is unclear if Gaetz or Trump knew of the investigation then.The White House declined the pardon request anyway, believing a prior forgiveness would set a bad precedent, according to The Times.
“Entry-level political operatives have conflated a pardon call from Representative Gaetz—where he called for President Trump to pardon ‘everyone from himself, to his administration, to Joe Exotic’—with these false and increasingly bizarre, partisan allegations against him, ” a spokesperson said in a statement to The Times.
Gaetz is under investigation by the Department of Justice into alleged sex trafficking of a minor and prostitution. He has denied ever paying for sex or having sex with a teenager and maintains that the investigation is a part of an extortion plot against him.