Liz Cheney said Sunday sexual misconduct allegations against Matt Gaetz are ‘sickening’ as Nancy Pelosi insisted it’s up to Republican leadership to decide if the Florida congressman should be booted.
‘As the mother of daughters, the charges certainly are sickening,’ Cheney, the House Republican Conference Chair, told CBS News ‘Face the Nation’ host Margaret Brennan in an interview Sunday morning.
‘There’s an ethics investigation underway. There are also criminal investigations underway,’ she noted. ‘And I’m not going to comment further on that publicly right now.’
Gaetz was causing trouble for Cheney as he led the charge calling for her constituents in Wyoming’s at-large congressional district to primary her after she voted to impeach Donald Trump during the second trial against him.
Cheney was the highest-ranking Republican to vote through Trump’s impeachment charge to the Senate after Democrats claimed he incited the January 6 Capitol insurrection.
Gaetz is facing a slew of charges, spanning allegations of sexual misconduct – including sending inappropriate images from the House floor, illegal drug use, accepting bribes and using his campaign funds for personal reasons.
The Florida Republican, and staunch Trump ally, has dismissed the allegations as ‘smears’ and ‘wild conspiracy theories’ created to take him down.
Liz Cheney, the third ranking Republican in the House, said ‘As the mother of daughters, the charges certainly are sickening’ against Rep. Matt Gaetz – but she would not go as far as calling for him to resign
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday it’s up to Republicans to decide out to deal with Gaetz as a growing list of allegations mount against him
Defiant Gaetz dismissed the sex trafficking allegations, claiming they are ‘smears’ and ‘wild conspiracy theories’ at a BBQ event in Miami on Friday
‘I’m built for the battle and I’m not going anywhere,’ he said Friday.
Brennan interviewed House Speaker Pelosi earlier on Sunday morning, where the Democratic House leader said she is leaving it up to Republicans to deal with Gaetz.
‘It’s up to the Republicans to take responsibility for that,’ Pelosi told CBS when asked if it’s time for Gaetz to cut his losses and resign.
‘We in the Congress, in the House, have ruled 23, which says that in the conduct of our duties, we are not to bring dishonor to the House of Representatives,’ the California representative continued. ‘I think there’s been a clear violation of that.’
‘But it’s up to the Ethics Committee to investigate that. And it’s up to the Republican leader, Mr. McCarthy, to act upon that behavior,’ Pelosi said in reference to her Republican counterparty, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Brennan asked Cheney, who is the third ranking Republican in the House, if she is prepared to call for Gaetz’s resignation or wait until after the investigation is completed.
She also asked if Cheney was surprised when the allegations arose.
‘I’m not going to comment further,’ Cheney insisted.
‘OK, well, here’s one of your chief critics, so I needed to offer you that opportunity, as you well know,’ Brennan pushed.
‘Thank you for the opportunity.’
The House Ethics Committee announced Friday it opened an investigation into several allegations against Gaetz.
‘The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Matt Gaetz may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct,’ the committee wrote in a statement.
‘The Committee, pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a), has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding the allegations,’ it continued.
The committee, chaired by Democratic Florida Congressman Ted Deutch, said that the existence of a probe does not mean any conclusions of potential violations have been drawn.
‘No other public comment will be made on this matter except in accordance with Committee rules.’
Gaetz was all smiles at his Friday Women for America First event as he was joined by fiancée Ginger Luckey, 26, whom he proposed to last December
Gaetz paid tribute to his bride-to-be saying: ‘Thank you to my amazing fiancée Ginger. I love you with all my heart and I can assure you the best is yet to come’
Gaetz’s office immediately responded with a statement denying the allegations, according to Forbes .
‘Once again, the office will reiterate, these allegations are blatantly false and have not been validated by a single human being willing to put their name behind them.’
Just hours later, the Trump loyalist showed no signs of buckling when he appeared at the ‘BBQ, Boots & Bluegrass’ event at the former president’s Doral golf club and resort in Miami, his first public engagement since the scandal broke.
‘Let me assure you, I have not yet begun to fight – for the country I love and the nation that I know benefits from America First principles. I’m built for the battle and I’m not going anywhere,’ he told members of Pro-Trump group, Women for America First.
‘The smears against me range from distortions of my personal life to wild, and I mean wild, conspiracy theories. I won’t be intimidated by a lying media and I won’t be extorted by a former DOJ official and the crooks he is working with. The truth will prevail.’
Gaetz was joined by fiancée Ginger Luckey, 26, whom he proposed to last December.
Later in the speech he added: ‘I may be a cancelled man in some corners, and I may even be a wanted man by the Deep State, but I hear the millions of Americans who feel forgotten, cancelled, ignored, marginalized and targeted.’
The House Ethics Committee announced Friday it opened an investigation into several allegations against Rep. Matt Gaetz
In addition to presenting himself as a strong defender of the marginalized, Gaetz also stated that he was a champion of women.
‘There is something special, tangible and powerful in what women have, and I’ve known it all my life,’ he told the Women For Trump crowd.
‘My service in the congress is more meaningful because I have seen the potential unlocked with so many brilliant patriotic women that I have had the chance to work with’.
On Thursday, in another attempt to defend Gaetz and show he is an ally of women, a press release signed by the ‘women of the office of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz’ said they felt ‘morally obligated’ to speak out.
‘At no time has any one of us experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect,’ the release said.
‘During Congressman Gaetz’s time in office, we have been behind the scenes every step of the way. We have staffed his meetings. We have planned his events. We have traveled with him. And we have tracked his schedule.’
They described him as a ‘principled and morally grounded leader,’ added that none of them had ‘experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect. No hint of impropriety. No ounce of untruthfulness.’
The letter continued: ‘In our office and under Congressman Gaetz’s leadership, women are not only respected, but have been encouraged time and time again to grow, achieve more, and ultimately, know our value.’
The nameless women concluded by saying that they ‘uniformly reject these allegations as false’ and that Gaetz has always treated every woman in his office with respect.
The ‘women’ spoke out, as it emerged Gaetz’s associate is cooperating with prosecutors and will likely take a plea deal – which will put more legal pressure on the embattled Florida Republican.
The House Ethics Committee also announced Friday it is investigating sexual misconduct allegations against Rep. Tom Reed of New York.
In a joint statement from Chairman Deutch and the panel’s Ranking Member Jackie Walorski , said they ‘will gather additional information regarding the allegations.’
Reed said last month he won’t seek reelection or pursue a gubernatorial campaign following the report detailing former lobbyist Nicolette Davis’s allegations that he sexually harassed her in 2017.
Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick was tapped on Wednesday to replace Reed in his capacity as co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus with Democrat Josh Gottheimer.
The Ethics Committee also announced Friday a probe against Rep. Tom Reed, who was accused of sexual harassment
The announcement of the probe against Gaetz comes just as a new report indicates Gaetz discussed throwing in a third-party candidate to a Florida state Senate race in a bid to help his associate win the seat.
Federal investigators are also looking into the 2020 Florida state Senate race, the New York Times reported, in which Gaetz’s associate Jason Brodeur, a Republican, ran for the open seat.
It is the latest in a string of allegations against the Trump loyalist who has been accused of having sex and trafficking a 17-year-old girl and showing naked photos of women to his Congressional colleagues.
Gaetz and Florida lobbyist Chris Dorworth talked about putting a third party or ‘ghost’ candidate into the contest to siphon votes from the Democratic opponent to help Brodeur.
The latest allegations surfaced as Gaetz retained two prominent New York attorneys as he faces the Justice Department investigation.
Marc Mukasey and Isabelle Kirshner will lead the Florida Republican’s legal team, a Gaetz spokesperson said in a statement Friday.
‘Matt has always been a fighter. A fighter for his constituents, a fighter for the country, and a fighter for the Constitution. He´s going to fight back against the unfounded allegations against him,’ the statement said, adding that the lawyers ‘will take the fight to those trying to smear his name with falsehoods.’
Gaetz discussed putting a third-party candidate into a Florida state Senate race to help an associate of his who was running for the seat in latest allegation. His associate Jason Brodeur ran for the open seat and Florida lobbyist Chris Dorworth allegedly talked with Gaetz about putting a third-party candidate on ballot to help Brodeur
Recruiting a third-party candidate, even to funnel votes from another contender, is generally legal, but secretly paying the ‘ghost candidates’ – who are usually paid to make a third-party bid, is usually a violation of campaign finance laws.
In that Florida state Senate race, a third party candidate did appear on the ballot: Jestine Iannotti.
She did little campaigning and raised few funds but fliers depicting her as a Democrat were sent to voters. One featured a stock photo of a Black woman and read: ‘Jestine Iannotti will always be there for us.’ Iannotti is white.
Brodeur, through a spokesperson, told The New York Times he knew nothing about the fliers and had nothing to do with them. Gaetz didn’t comment.
Dorworth told the newspaper that he did not recall a conversation with Gaetz about running a third candidate and that ‘there would be nothing illegal about it if we had,’ so long as they did not pay that person to seek office.
‘I never met the woman who did run,’ Dorworth said. ‘Never spoke to her, communicated by any written device, gave her any money or anything else.’
Brodeur ultimately defeated his Democratic opponent, Patricia Sigman, by 7,600 votes – a sound victory. Iannotti received about 6,000 votes in the contest.
The detail is the latest to emerge in the investigation of the Florida congressman, who is battling an series of allegations, including that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. Gaetz has denied all the charges.
The latest comes as a second senior member of Gaetz’s staff quit.
On Thursday Devin Murphy quit his job as Gaetz’s legislative director, sources told The New York Times.
He told associates that he wanted to write bills, and that working with Gaetz was now similar to working for a tabloid news publication, the Times reports.
Murphy had worked for Gaetz since he came to Congress in 2017.
A source told the paper that Murphy’s departure had not been contentious, and a statement from Gaetz’s office said the two parties agreed ‘it would be best to part ways.’
It came just days after the resignation of Gaetz’s press secretary, Luke Ball.
Also on Thursday night Adam Kinzinger, a Republican congressman for Illinois, became the first member of the Republican Party to call for Gaetz to step down.
Kinzinger has frequently clashed with the pro-Trump wing of his party.
Gaetz was friends with Joel Greenberg who was the tax collector for Seminole County until his arrest in June on a litany of charges, including creating fake IDs and sex-trafficked a minor. He is now being sucked into the drama, and is reportedly being investigated for sex trafficking of a minor and prostitution
Gaetz is facing rapidly-escalating problems stemming from his friendship with fellow Floridian Joel Greenberg, 36.
Greenberg was the tax collector for Seminole County until his arrest in June on a litany of charges, including allegations that he stalked a political opponent, illegally used a state database to create fake IDs and sex-trafficked a minor.
Gaetz has now been sucked into the drama, and is reportedly being investigated for sex trafficking of a minor and prostitution.
It was alleged on Thursday that he paid Greenberg $900 in May 2018, and the following day Greenberg paid three women – none of whom were underage – $900 between them.
Gaetz, a stridently pro-Trump politician, insists he has never paid for sex, and never as an adult had sex with a 17-year-old.
Kinzinger on Thursday night tweeted a link to The Daily Beast story about the $900 payment, saying: ‘Matt Gaetz needs to resign.’
Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger, pictured, has clashed with several pro-Trump figures