Rep. Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz sought a blanket pardon for himself and other allies from President Donald Trump in the last weeks before he left office, according to a new report in the New York Times, but that effort failed.
Gaetz “privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people told of the discussions,” the report said.
It’s not clear, according to the reporting, exactly what Gaetz’s motivation was for seeking the pardon was. But the Times had previously reported that Gaetz was and is under scrutiny from the Justice Department for potentially sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl. Other reports have confirmed this finding and suggested that the investigation may include a broader scope of his conduct. The Times noted that the investigation of Gaetz appears to have begun back around the summer of 2020.
Gaetz has denied any allegation of wrongdoing, though he has deflected by claiming he is generous with romantic partners.
The Times reported that Gaetz came under scrutiny because of a related investigation into his friend Joel Greenberg, who has already been indicted on sex trafficking charges. Those charges were public by the time Gaetz was pushing for Trump pardons.
He wasn’t exactly doing it covertly, either. On Fox News in November, he called for Trump to wield his pardon power liberally to protect himself and his allies:
President Trump should pardon Flynn, the Thanksgiving turkey, and everyone from himself, to his admin, to Joe Exoti… https://t.co/YkyFNlBY0i
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@Rep. Matt Gaetz)1606276256.0
Many noted it was a bizarre comment to make at the time. But it makes more sense if, as the Times reported, Gaetz was also pushing behind closed doors to get a blanket pardon. A spokesperson for Gaetz told the Times that its sources were conflating Gaetz’s public calls for pardons with direct requests.
“In recent days, some Trump associates have speculated that Mr. Gaetz’s request for a group pardon was an attempt to camouflage his own potential criminal exposure,” the Times said.
Even though Trump’s use of the pardon power to reward friends and allies was widely seen as abusive and corrupt, a blanket pardon for someone like Gaetz would’ve been even more egregious than most on his record, since it would serve to cover up any and all past federal crimes the Florida Republican may have committed without any chance for accountability. Trump never issued a pardon for Gaetz or any other such blanket pardon.
It’s also not clear if the report is related directly to the Gaetz, but it’s worth recalling that on Jan. 19, CNN reported:
Several Republican lawmakers who are alleged to have been involved in the rally that preceded the deadly riot on the US Capitol have sought clemency from Trump before he leaves office, but after meeting with his legal advisers for several hours on Saturday, the President decided he would not grant them, according to two people familiar with his plans.