Federal authorities investigating alleged sex trafficking by GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz have secured the cooperation of the congressman’s ex-girlfriend, according to people familiar with the matter.
The woman, a former Capitol Hill staffer, is seen as a critical witness, as she has been linked to Gaetz as far back as the summer of 2017, a period of time that has emerged as a key window of scrutiny for investigators. She can also help investigators understand the relevance of hundreds of transactions they have obtained records of, including those involving alleged payments for sex, the sources said.
News of the woman’s willingness to talk, which has not been previously reported, comes just days after the Justice Department formally entered into a plea agreement with Joel Greenberg, a one-time close friend of Gaetz whose entanglement with young women first drew the congressman onto investigators’ radar.
CNN reported last week that investigators were pressing for the woman’s cooperation. The sources would not say whether she had reached a formal cooperation agreement.
Information from Greenberg in the lead-up to his plea agreement has already helped investigators further their scrutiny of the congressman. As he worked towards a plea deal with federal prosecutors in recent months, Greenberg told investigators that Gaetz and at least two other men had sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl, CNN has learned. Gaetz has repeatedly denied he ever had sex with a minor or paid for sex.
“Congressman Gaetz doesn’t seem to be named nor referenced in Mr. Greenberg’s plea,” said Gaetz spokesman Harlan Hill. “Congressman Gaetz has never had sex with a minor and has never paid for sex. Mr. Greenberg has now pleaded guilty to falsely accusing someone else of sex with a minor. That person was innocent. So is Congressman Gaetz.”
Justice Department spokesman Joshua Stueve declined to comment to CNN. The ex-girlfriend’s lawyer Timothy Jansen also declined to comment.
Greenberg plea agreement
That allegation by Greenberg, described to CNN by multiple people familiar with the matter, is referenced briefly in an 86-page plea agreement that a federal judge accepted on Monday and is now at the center of the ongoing investigation into Gaetz. But prosecutors did not include any names in the court filing.
According to the plea agreement, Greenberg had sex with the girl “at least seven times when she was a minor” and “introduced the Minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts with the Minor” in central Florida.
Greenberg’s cooperation on the subject is a primary reason that 27 of the 33 charges he had been facing were wiped away. The extent to which he backs it up will have an impact on his final prison sentence. But already, a Gaetz associate, one of the men accused by Greenberg, has denied the allegation in a meeting with federal prosecutors, the associate told CNN.
Gaetz and his representatives have attacked Greenberg’s credibility in recent days, pointing to the fact that Greenberg admitted in his plea agreement to falsely accusing someone of having sex with a minor.
“If the government is brave enough to call Joel Greenberg as a witness, [Marc] Mukasey and [Isabelle] Kirshner are champing at the bit to take him on,” a person close to Gaetz’s defense team said, referring to the congressman’s two high-profile attorneys.
“We’re ready for a fair fight on the facts and the law. Anywhere. Anytime. But the steady stream of leaks by anonymous sources undermines the integrity of this process. It is simply and unequivocally improper,” the attorneys said in a statement to CNN.
Asked earlier this week about Greenberg’s readiness to potentially testify against Gaetz, Fritz Scheller, Greenberg’s defense attorney, said, “Mr. Greenberg has pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement and has certain requirements and obligations on him and he intends to honor that.”
As part of his plea agreement, Greenberg is required to cooperate fully with the federal government in other ongoing investigations and prosecutions.
Gaetz, who has not been charged with a crime, is also under investigation over allegations of prostitution and public corruption, CNN has reported. He has long denied having sex with the 17-year-old in public statements and interviews.
Gaetz associate meets with federal investigators
The Gaetz associate who met with the Justice Department earlier this month told CNN that investigators spent the bulk of the meeting asking questions about the congressmen and parties with young women, including the 17-year-old. Investigators appeared to be focused on encounters that took place in the summer of 2017, the associate said.
The associate, who was one of the men Greenberg told investigators had engaged in a sex act with the 17-year-old, denied to investigators that he had ever met the woman or had sexual contact with her in 2017, he told CNN. He also says he provided them with an independently administered polygraph exam that he had taken days before the meeting.
Details of the associate’s meeting with investigators and the polygraph exam were first reported by Politico.
He shared with CNN details of his contact with investigators on the condition his name not be used.
Investigators also briefly asked questions about possible influence peddling revolving around the medical marijuana industry and a 2020 Florida Senate race in which a third-party candidate ran as a spoiler, the associate added.
The associate said his meeting with investigators followed a December 2020 subpoena that requested communications and payments between him and Gaetz, Greenberg, and another man, from January 2016 to the present.
The subpoena indicated a grand jury was investigating allegations “involving commercial sex acts with adult and minor women, as well as obstruction of justice,” the associate said.
There are new signs of investigative activity too, after sources had recently told CNN the FBI was mostly done gathering evidence.
One person familiar with the matter said that federal investigators have sought information from new witnesses as recently as this month, including communications and payments from a group of men that included Gaetz and Greenberg.
Decisions on whether to charge Gaetz have yet to be made and will fall to prosecutors in the public integrity section of the Justice Department. That decision is likely to take some time, CNN has reported, as the Justice Department considers whether there’s sufficient evidence for an indictment.