Is he going to be Time's Man of the Year? This is what we've found out since last night's Gaetz update. First of all, we now know that the FBI seized Gaetz's iPhone a few months ago-- and why.
Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon reported that Gaetz and a gaggle of hookers (at least 5) and GOP politicians took 3 separate flights to their sex party in the Bahamas. The FBI has held the details close but "at the time of the 2018 trip, Gaetz was a top adviser to Republican Ron DeSantis, who was running for governor, and went on to manage his transition team months later. DeSantis has long been a top Gaetz ally but declined to comment on his legal woes Monday when asked by reporters. In the Bahamas, Gaetz was joined by two GOP allies: Halsey Beshears, then a state legislator, and Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and Republican fundraiser for DeSantis, according to three sources, including one who was part of the group. Also among those on the trip: the former minor who is key to the investigation, whose presence on the trip was previously unreported. According to one of the women in the group who spoke on condition of anonymity, everyone on the trip was over the age of 18-- including the woman in question, who had turned 18 years old months before the trip, she said... [Q]uestions surrounding the ages of some of the women surfaced immediately upon their return-- three of them looked so young when they returned on Beshears’ private plane that U.S. Customs briefly stopped and questioned him, according to sources familiar with the trip, including a woman on the flight."
As the investigation intensified this winter, Beshears abruptly resigned as Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary, a post that made him the state’s top business regulator, noting he had contracted Covid-19. But he confided to two friends recently that he believes he’s the subject of the investigation, the friends told Politico.
Beshears refused comment and his lawyer did not return calls. Both the lawmaker and his former girlfriend declined to comment.
That was late last night; this morning, CNN reported that some of the young sex workers were ratting Gaetz and his pals out to the feds. Short version: cocaine, ecstasy, sex, cash. One described Gaetz as a pill-popping "frat type of party boy." David Shortell and Paul Reid wrote that "After some parties, money would change hands. According to receipts reviewed by CNN, Gaetz and his associate Joel Greenberg, a former county tax commissioner indicted last year on multiple federal charges, used digital payment applications to send hundreds of dollars to at least one woman who attended the parties. The receipts viewed by CNN record payments that took place between 2018 and 2019 and include at least one that indicated in a label that it was to compensate for travel. One of the women said she received money from Greenberg after some of the parties. She said that some of the payments were for providing sex but would not say who she slept with. She did say she never received money directly from Gaetz. Some of the parties were more low-key affairs, the other woman said. Some took place in hotel suites at the end of alcohol-filled political functions. 'No one ever wants to stop partying, stop drinking, once you've had a few glasses of champagne in you,' she said.."
The FBI has interviewed several of the women who partied with Gaetz and Greenberg. Gaetz claims the Justice Department was on a political witch hunt, but the Justice Department was Trump's DOJ and the investigation into Gaetz was approved by Attorney General William Barr who likely informed Trump before going after a congressman and close Trump ally.
As part of the ongoing probe, investigators are scrutinizing Gaetz's connections to several associates in Florida who may have benefited politically in return for providing the congressman favors including escorts, travel, and campaign donations, according to the sources familiar with the investigation.
...A former member of the Florida House of Representatives and the son of a powerful figure in Republican state politics, Gaetz cultivated a tight-knit circle of politically-connected friends who stayed in his orbit after he went to Washington in 2017.
In recent days, a number of those allies have been drawn into the scandal. Chris Dorworth, a former state legislator who Gaetz has described as a friend and "legislative mentor," stepped down from his post at a high-powered lobbying firm on Friday, one day after the New York Times reported that he had spoken with Gaetz about running a third-party candidate in a local election-- in potential violation of campaign finance laws.
"The current political environment is nasty, and I told Brian I don't think it's fair for the recent media storm to take away from their missions," Dorworth wrote on Twitter, referencing Brian Ballard, the founder of the Florida-based lobbying group with close ties to the administration of former president Donald Trump.
Dorworth told The Times that he did not recall talking with Gaetz about running a third candidate. He did not respond to CNN's request for comment on his resignation.
So far, Greenberg appears to be the only person in Gaetz' orbit who is currently facing charges related to the scandal. First indicted in 2020 over the alleged stalking of a political rival, Greenberg has since been accused by federal prosecutors of unlawfully accessing a motor vehicle database to obtain and use the personal information of people including some who he "was engaged in 'sugar daddy' relationships" with.
According to a person close to Greenberg, the former tax commissioner regularly sent identically worded messages to multiple women inviting them to parties through so-called sugar daddy dating websites, where men connect with women that they usually compensate with money or gifts.
Few details about the sex trafficking of a minor charge levied at Greenberg last year have been revealed to the public, but in an August indictment, prosecutors said the minor was between the ages of 14 and 17 years old and accused Greenberg of unlawfully obtaining a photograph and driver identification number for the person.
People close to both Greenberg and Gaetz have described them as good friends whose connection was as much about Republican Party politics in Florida as after-hours socializing.
Greenberg, a newcomer to elected office when he won the county seat in 2016, enjoyed the political status he gained from friendships with Gaetz and other lawmakers, the people close to the men said.
Out of the public eye, Greenberg would boast to friends that he was partying with Gaetz and women, according to the person close to Greenberg.
For his part, Gaetz appeared to have found an ally in Greenberg, donating $1,000 to one of his campaigns, and promoting him for higher office in an interview.
"If Joel were to run from Seminole Co, I think he'd become the next congressman from the 7th district," Gaetz told a Florida radio station in 2017.
That relationship is now being tested. Gaetz, in turn, has boosted his defense team, late last week hiring two New York lawyers, including Marc Mukasey, a former federal prosecutor who has also represented the Trump Organization.
Meanwhile, the NRCC is trying to figure out what to do with the $110,000 in campaign cash Gaetz gave it. The DCCC has also been beating up on vulnerable Republicans who have accepted campaign cash from Gaetz and, so far, refused to return it: John Katko (NY), Mike Garcia (CA), Maria Salazar (FL), Don Bacon (NE), Scott Perry (PA), David Schweikert (AZ) and Steve Chabot (OH). Two Republicans have returned their contributions that Gaetz gave them. No one knows if any of them were among the members who Gaetz showed videos of nude women he was claiming to bang. While Boehner is calling on McCarthy to demand his resignation the moment he's indicted, McCarthy has only indicated he'll demand Gaetz resign after he's convicted.
Most Republican members are jokingly pretending to supporters who ask them about Gaetz that they never heard of him. His only vocal defenders have been 2 extremists with their own sex scandals, Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-GA) and Gym Jordan (R-OH).
Back in the part of Alabama that is included in Florida-- aka- Gaetz's district-- he's drawn three primary opponents, all military veterans, in a very veteran-heavy district. (Gaetz was drunk during the years people normally volunteer to serve and never joined the military.) The Republicans opposing his reelection are Air National Guard pilot Bryan Jones, retired Navy test pilot Greg Merk and retired Navy officer John Mills. Democrat Phil Ehr, also a retired Naval officer is challenging Gaetz to a rematch, after losing to him in 2020, 283,352 (64.6%) to 149,172 (34.0%). The Gaetz sex scandal hadn't broken yet.