House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested Thursday that the Ethics Committee will launch an investigation into allegations that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) engaged in sexual relations with an underaged girl, a case currently under investigation by the Justice Department.
During a press call on Thursday, Pelosi emphasized that if the allegations prove to be true, Gaetz would be subject to criminal penalties falling outside the jurisdiction of Congress to punish its own members, including efforts to strip transgressive lawmakers of committee assignments.
But citing the importance of maintaining “the integrity of the Congress,” Pelosi indicated that the Ethics panel could examine the allegations while the Department of Justice continues its probe.
Gaetz was thrown into the spotlight this week after The New York Times reported that the Justice Department is examining allegations that he carried on a sexual relationship several years ago with a girl who was 17 years old at the time.
As part of the probe, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is also seeking to establish if Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws by traveling with the girl across state lines.
Gaetz, a prominent ally of former President Trump and established star of conservative media, has denied the allegations vigorously, using Twitter and media interviews to proclaim his innocence.
In a bizarre twist, Gaetz released documents and screenshots that he says reveal the extraordinary plan of the alleged extortionists: They intended to use the $25 million, he says, to rescue Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent, from Iran, where he was captured in 2007.
Pelosi is not the only Democrat calling for an ethics probe into Gaetz’s conduct. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, said he’s hoping the matter is taken up by the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent body that examines allegations of congressional misconduct and refers certain cases to the Ethics Committee.
“Someone needs to get to the bottom of all of this,” Clyburn told CNN on Wednesday.