Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe has called the probe into sex trafficking allegations against Congressman Matt Gaetz “very serious,” as the Florida Republican denies any wrongdoing and details of the investigation remain scarce.
Appearing on CNN Wednesday night, McCabe claimed federal officials did not open investigations into sitting members of Congress without “a significant degree of information,” and called news of the probe into Gaetz “substantial.”
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the Department of Justice was investigating whether the GOP lawmaker had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him, citing unnamed sources.
However, the congressman has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and alleges that the claims are part of a $25 million extortion plot targeting both him and his family. He added that his father had worn a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch criminals trying to extort him.
Speaking to CNN last night, McCabe said: “It’s substantial and very serious. You know [after] 21 years of opening and overseeing, conducting investigations, I can tell you that nobody opens a sex trafficking investigation in which the subject is a sitting member of Congress without having a significant degree of information.”
“In any case, I can assure you the FBI doesn’t open these cases lightly, and don’t get briefed to the attorney general without some significant momentum behind them,” he later added.
At the time of writing, the ex-FBI official’s speculative remarks are not borne out by published evidence, and he left the Bureau in early 2018 after being fired under the Trump administration.
It was reported that the probe into Gaetz was opened during the final months of the Trump administration when William Barr was serving as attorney general. The congressman does not face any charges at present.
Releasing a statement on Tuesday, he said: “Over the past several weeks, my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name.
“We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals.”
He also demanded that the Justice Department release tapes his father made while wearing a wire immediately, claiming that the recordings implicated a former staffer of the department. Newsweek contacted Congressman Gaetz’s office for further comment.
In a statement provided on Tuesday, Gaetz said: “No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation.”