Fifteen minutes before Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) was due to appear on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show on March 30, 2021 – hours after an explosive report that he was under investigation for sex trafficking suspected of a minor – Gaetz repeatedly shouted at FBI agents in his family home.
“Do you have a warrant to be here?” Gaetz screamed, according to an FBI report of the event obtained by The Daily Beast.
But as contradictory as Gaetz was at those times, the agents weren’t after him. They were actually there to help him, and his father, who had been cooperating with the FBI for several days in an undercover operation that Gaetz claimed on live television minutes later, would clear his name.
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This scene and others are detailed in never-before-seen documents that shed new light on the sting operation, which Gaetz helped orchestrate in the frantic days before. the New York Times released the explosive report that changed the Panhandle Congressman’s public and political life.
The documents, in the possession of federal prosecutors and obtained exclusively by The Daily Beast, confirm parts of the story of the international intrigue and attempted fraud that Gaetz described to Carlson minutes after officers left his home. . But the records also contradict the core claims of Gaetz’s version of events, raising new questions about the congressman’s role in the scam, as well as when and why he began cooperating with the government. federal.
A document contains a key but so far elusive detail about the origins of the ongoing federal investigation into Gaetz’s sex trafficking: when, exactly, it began.
When Gaetz first told the story to Carlson, it was, for an unprepared audience still processing the news of the sex trafficking investigation, a head-turning chain of events.
According to Gaetz, two men approached his father — Don Gaetz, the wealthy former Florida Senate president and political broker to this day — with a bizarre quid pro quo: If Don Gaetz gave them $25 million, they could make the investigating her son’s alleged sex crimes goes missing.
The stated motivation for the $25 million payment was perhaps even more bizarre. The men said they wanted to use the money to rescue Bob Levinson, an American held hostage in Iran and long presumed dead.
“Our family was so troubled by this that we went to the local FBI,” Gaetz told Carlson.
But FBI records dispute this sequence of events.
According to the documents, the FBI learned about Levinson’s conspiracy independently through layers of intermediaries. Agents only spoke to Matt Gaetz after contacting him through one of these intermediaries.
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Gaetz also mutilated the story in other ways, telling Carlson without proof that it was all a “deep state” plot against him. He claimed the allegations in the Time report is sort of a product of that same conspiracy. But this logic did not hold. The Gaetz probe was already several months old, according to the documents. The FBI’s investigation into the Levinson conspiracy had just begun a few days ago.
At the end of the Fox News segment, a bewildered Carlson called it “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever done.” Eventually, however, Gaetz won some degree of vindication when one of the men at the center of the hostage scheme, convicted felon Stephen M. Alford, admitted last November to wire defrauding as part of the plot.
Yet the recordings contradict Gaetz more than they confirm his sequence of events.
According to the documents, Gaetz had his first conversation with the FBI on March 19, when he told agents that his father had already met with the two men – Alford and another associate – the day before to discuss their offer in person.
It was not, as Gaetz had claimed, that his family had contacted the FBI to discuss a potential extortion scheme. According to this FBI special agent’s field report contained in the documents, the agent learned of the conspiracy earlier in the day when a retired Jacksonville agent tipped her off to a lead.
The active agent followed this lead to another former FBI agent – this one based in Miami – who told him about the Levinson plan. The men who made the offer, the Miami agent said, had claimed to have “information on Congressman Gaetz.” (The report also clarifies that the Miami agent’s tip did not come directly from Gaetz.)
When the FBI finally contacted Matt Gaetz by phone, he claimed that the day before his father had had two face-to-face meetings with the men to discuss their plan. Alford was called in for the second meeting, Matt Gaetz noted, and promised to “dismiss the criminal case of Congressman GAETZ.”
When the phone call ended, Gaetz asked the FBI agent to call his father.
Contact between the Gaetzs and Alford ended without an agreement. And on March 25, a week after meeting Alford, Don Gaetz was at the FBI office in Fort Walton Beach, with his attorney and two special agents. A record of the meeting shows that the agents went through a PowerPoint-assisted strategy session designed to jump-start Levinson’s negotiations and sting the alleged perpetrators.
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At this meeting, Don Gaetz mentioned the investigation of his son. He told the pair of officers that he heard, third-hand, that a former Justice Department lawyer connected to the Levinson plan brought up the investigation in conversation. When officers inquired further, Don Gaetz’s attorney stepped in and referred them to Matt Gaetz’s attorney.
Matt Gaetz — whose campaign paid Trump whisperer and notorious ‘deep state’ antagonist Roger Stone $5,000 for strategic advice the day before his father met with the FBI — would invoke the former DOJ attorney as a “deep state” bogeyman in his Carlson guise.
The next day, March 26, Don Gaetz surreptitiously recorded an in-person conversation with Alford’s attorney, the former DOJ attorney mentioned above. He then recorded another conversation with Alford himself, where Alford promised a presidential pardon for his son.
Then, according to records, around 2:30 p.m. on March 30, Don Gaetz met with a special agent at a Publix grocery store in Niceville, Florida, to receive a recording device for a follow-up conversation with Alford the next day. Hours later, The New York Times revealed Gaetz’s sex trafficking investigation.
That evening, around 7:45 p.m., according to the FBI report, two special agents rang the doorbell of the Gaetz family residence. They had come to get their recording device. The sting was off, but the records don’t explain why, and they don’t mention the Time narrative.
After Don Gaetz gave them the recording device, officers asked if they could take pictures of his text messages with Alford, according to FBI records on the incident. Don Gaetz “voluntarily” handed over his phone, and as an officer took a photo of a text, Matt Gaetz “appeared outside another area of the residence.”
“Mr. GAETZ shouted, ‘He has a lawyer!’ several times,” the report said. The officer returned the phone to Don Gaetz and they arranged to get in touch with his lawyer.
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As the officers returned to their vehicle, according to the document, “Mr. GAETZ shouted, ‘Do you have a warrant to be here?’ and asked his father if they had taken anything from him. Officers did not respond, the report said. Don Gaetz replied to his son: no, they only took the recording device they had previously given him.
Minutes later, Matt Gaetz was on national television delivering a broadside against the men he says have always extorted his family, while at the same time describing a series of events that, according to FBI records , were not accurate.
A spokesperson for Gaetz told The Daily Beast that Gaetz stands by his version of events.
“Rep. Matt Gaetz stands behind every word he said about this fiasco. Time has only vindicated his claims and resulted in the guilty plea of one of those involved in the trashing of his family” , the spokesperson said, “Due to ongoing investigations of others involved in this shakedown, we will have no further comment.”
It’s unclear why Gaetz, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee and oversees the Justice Department, would seek to disclose an allegedly ongoing and previously unreported investigation. Three people close to the events denied there had been an investigation and the FBI declined to comment. The Daily Beast could only confirm that one of those involved is currently under investigation: Matt Gaetz.
Although the ongoing investigation has persisted with little action recently, government records provide new information about when this investigation began.
According to previous reports, the DOJ, led by Trump-appointed Attorney General Bill Barr, launched its investigation in the “final months of the Trump administration.” But FBI documents more closely attribute the start of the investigation to “summer 2020.”
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DOJ records obtained by The Daily Beast show the investigation opened specifically in August 2020 – the same month the feds indicted former Gaetz ‘winger’ Joel Greenberg for allegedly smuggling sexual purposes the teenager at the center of the Gaetz investigation.
In the end, only one man – Alford – pleaded guilty to the clemency plan for hostage taking, admitting one count of wire fraud last November. The charge carries up to 20 years, and Alford is currently awaiting sentencing in Santa Rosa County Jail. At the end of April, the court postponed his sentencing date to June 1, on grounds still under seal.
On Monday, a federal judge in the Middle District of Florida also postponed Greenberg’s sentencing for the third time. Greenberg, who pleaded guilty to the trafficking charge a year ago, is now expected to be sentenced in August. The delay, the judge said, was “in the interests of justice”.
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