Investigators see credibility challenges for two of the main witnesses in the probe of the congressman’s past dealings with a 17-year-old
Career prosecutors have recommended against charging Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) in a long-running sex-trafficking investigation — telling Justice Department superiors that a conviction is unlikely in part because of credibility questions with the two central witnesses, according to people familiar with the matter.
Senior department officials have not made a final decision on whether to charge Gaetz, but it is rare for such advice to be rejected, these people told The Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations. They added that it is always possible additional evidence emerges that could alter prosecutors’ understanding of the case.
Nevertheless, it is unlikely that federal authorities will charge Gaetz with a crime in an investigation that started in late 2020 and focused on his alleged involvement with a 17-year-old girl several years earlier. Gaetz,40, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, saying he has never paid for sex. He has also said the only time he had sex with a 17-year-old was when he was also 17.
Gaetz’s lawyer, Isabelle Kirshner, declined to comment. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
Investigators set out to determine if the congressman paid for sex in violation of federal sex-trafficking laws and have examinedhis dealings with the then-17-year-old, people familiar with the matter have said. Earlier this year, a federal grand jury in Orlando heard testimony from associates of Gaetz, including an ex-girlfriend.
The ex-girlfriend was among several women on a trip Gaetz allegedly took to the Bahamas in 2018 that has been of particular interest to investigators. The 17-year-old at issue in the investigation was also on that trip, though by that time she was already 18 or older, people familiar with the matter have said. She has been a central witness in the investigation, but people familiar with the case said she is one of two people whose testimony has issues that veteran prosecutors feel would not pass muster with a jury.