Rep. Matt Gaetz allegedly sought a “blanket” presidential pardon from Donald Trump in the closing weeks of his administration — a request which was ultimately not fulfilled, according to news reports.
The request for a blanket preemptive pardon for the Florida Republican and unidentified congressional allies, first reported on Tuesday night by The New York Times, came as the Justice Department was opening an investigation into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel across state lines. It’s the latest development in a scandal that has embroiled the third-term lawmaker after The Times first reported on the investigation last week.
Gaetz, a conservative firebrand, has been a vocal defender of the former president. However, the request for a pardon was quickly dismissed by the White House, as lawyers and officials considered such a broad move could set a bad precedent, the Times reported, citing anonymous sources who were briefed on the discussions.
It’s unclear whether Gaetz or the White House was aware of the Justice Department inquiry when he made the pardon request, The Times said. Although Trump was informed about the request, it was also unclear whether Gaetz had spoken directly with him about the matter.
However, a week ago, the congressman had denied that he had sought a pardon from Trump when asked about the possibility by POLITICO. Reached by phone on Tuesday night, Gaetz stood by that statement but said he had not read the Times article.
“The recent false allegations against me are not something I’ve ever discussed with Trump, pardons or otherwise,” he previously told POLITICO.
Gaetz said that he and other lawmakers had met with Trump to discuss a broader pardon strategy after the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, an exchange in which he advised the former president to pardon himself, his family, administration officials and others who supported Trump’s election claims from a charge of insurrection.
Trump was later impeached by the House on a charge of inciting an insurrection, but acquitted in the Senate. In his final hours in office, Trump issued dozens of pardons for people ranging from his former adviser Steve Bannon to rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black.
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