The Washington Post first reported on Friday that career prosecutors recommended against pursuing charges against Gaetz, in part due to concerns about the credibility of potential witnesses. It would be highly unusual for political appointees in the Department of Justice to file suits in the face of opposition from senior career officials.
Gaetz’s peril in the investigation seemed to escalate last year when a close friend, former Seminole County, Fla., tax collector Joel Greenberg, pleaded guilty to six federal felonies, including a sex trafficking charge, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
The Greenberg investigation prompted authorities to investigate Gaetz and several other men in Florida and led to the prosecution of Joe Ellicott, a collectibles dealer who was named on a federal grand jury subpoena with Gaetz.
However, signs of probe activity appeared to be slowing in recent months even as some predicted action in the case by the end of the summer. Earlier this month, when the Justice Department entered a pre-election blackout period for politically charged investigations with no charges brought, the chances of charges against Gaetz seemed to fade.
Greenberg’s sentencing was repeatedly delayed as his cooperation with the federal government continued. The specific reasons for the delays were unclear, but defendants who help the government with an investigation generally want to be able to show the court as much assistance as possible, including testimony before a grand jury or trial if needed. .
“Mr. Greenberg has been cooperating with federal prosecutors in active investigations currently being conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Intermediate District of Florida and the Department of Justice in Washington D.C., as well as in other jurisdictions, Greenberg’s defense attorney Fritz Scheller said in a July court filing.
The submission, along with other information provided to the court under seal, prompted U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Presnell to delay Greenberg’s sentencing until December 1.
In addition to the alleged sex trafficking charge, federal prosecutors were investigating whether Gaetz obstructed justice following a phone call a witness had with Gaetz and the lawmaker’s girlfriend at the time. The exact details of this phone call are unknown.
The New York Times also previously reported that Gaetz sought a blanket pardon in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, though it’s unclear whether the Florida Republican knew he was facing a pardon. investigation when he asked for a pardon. The Washington Post also reported last week that Gaetz had asked for a pardon specifically for the federal sex offenses investigation — details that emerged from testimony provided to the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. .
Greenberg, who was once considered Gaetz’s “wingman,” had faced credibility issues in part because of the long list of charges he initially faced. Greenberg faced multiple indictments and a total of 33 counts against him at one point, although he ultimately pleaded guilty to just six counts. These criminal charges included sex trafficking of a minor, harassment and fraud. He faces at least 12 years behind bars.