Skip to Content

Exclusive: House Ethics Committee requests interview with witness in Gaetz probe

By Paula Reid and Annie Grayer, CNN

Washington (CNN) — The Republican-led House Ethics Committee has reached out to at least one witness as part of its investigation into GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz to schedule an interview in the coming weeks, the latest sign that the once dormant probe remains open.

One formal request went out last week, the day before the House voted to expel former Rep. George Santos over ethics violations, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

In the emailed request, a copy of which was obtained by CNN, investigators write that “The Chairman and Ranking Member have authorized staff to conduct an interview” with the witness.

The formal interview request, which has not been previously reported, is the first sign of activity in the Ethics committee’s Gaetz probe since investigators made contact with witnesses in July. It also suggests that on the heels of Santos’s expulsion, the panel is turning its attention to Gaetz, who argued on the House floor that expelling Santos without a conviction would be an “incredible violation of precedent” that would do “grave damage” to Congress.

The Justice Department in February informed Gaetz’s lawyers it would not bring criminal charges against the Florida Republican after a yearslong federal sex-trafficking investigation.

Gaetz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, including ever having sex with a minor or paying for sex. Asked by CNN on Thursday about the Ethics Committee probe, Gaetz said, “Oh please” and added, “I wish them luck.”

The Ethics Committee, which at the time was controlled by Democrats, originally opened its Gaetz investigation in 2021publicly announcing that its was examining a range of allegations including that Gaetz violated sex trafficking laws, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, used illicit drugs, converted campaign funds to personal use and accepted a bribe, among other claims.

CNN reported in July that the focus of the committee’s recent questions in the probe concerned possible lobbying violations, according to a source who was contacted at the time.

Committee investigators have yet to reach out to several key witnesses at the center of the federal sex-trafficking probe, including the woman who was just 17 years old when she allegedly had sex with Gaetz, or an ex-girlfriend who testified before the grand jury and was considered a key witness for the government, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.

Investigators for the panel have also not requested to interview Gaetz’s longtime friend and convicted fraudster, Joel Greenberg, who cooperated extensively in the Justice Department’s sex-trafficking probe into Gaetz, according to one of the sources familiar with the investigation.

Greenberg is currently serving an eleven year sentence after pleading guilty to six charges including sex trafficking and fraud. Federal prosecutors in his case have said that Greenberg has been cooperative with investigators, as outlined in his plea agreement.

A spokesperson for the Ethics Committee declined to comment.

Gaetz, who led the charge to oust former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, has privately blamed McCarthy for the Ethics committee restarting its probe under McCarthy’s watch.

But the former speaker has repeatedly denounced those accusations and has argued that Gaetz’s efforts to oust him stem from his concerns over the Ethics probe.

“I don’t believe them to be conservatives,” McCarthy has said of the eight Republicans who voted to oust him. “It’s driven by Gaetz, and it was all based upon an ethics complaint that happened in the last Congress. He would throw his country away to try to protect himself for what would come out as the truth.”

In contrast to the strained relationship between Gaetz and McCarthy, the Florida congressman appears to be giving House Speaker Mike Johnson the benefit of the doubt. 

“I trust Mike Johnson. And I know Mike Johnson wants to achieve the goals I wanted to achieve,” Gaetz said shortly after Johnson was elected as Speaker.

This story has been updated with a comment from Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

CNN Newsource


KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content