Friday June 18th, 2021 1:54AM

House GOP leader: Won't punish Gaetz unless charges filed

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Matt Gaetz, under federal investigation for sex trafficking allegations, is “innocent until proven guilty" and Republicans don't plan to punish him unless charges are filed, the House GOP leader said Thursday.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., also told reporters that in a private conversation, the Florida Republican told him he's innocent of the accusations he's facing.

McCarthy said he told Gaetz the party would act against him if legal action began. Internal House GOP rules require that lawmakers charged with serious felonies lose their membership in committees.

More than two weeks since reports emerged that Gaetz was under Justice Department investigation for accusations that include sex with a 17-year-old girl, McCarthy's remarks underscored the party's reluctance to move against him without formal charges. That includes opposing calls by Democrats to remove Gaetz from the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Justice Department that is investigating him.

“Matt Gaetz is the same as any American, he's innocent until proven guilty,” McCarthy said when asked about pulling Gaetz off the Judiciary panel. “There's no charges against him yet. If a charge comes forward, that will be dealt with at that time."

Asked if Republicans might act against Gaetz before an indictment if new information is revealed, McCarthy said, “That's a hypothetical question. I'll deal with whatever issue as it comes. As of right now, Matt Gaetz says he is innocent, there's an investigation going on and I'll let the investigation take care of itself."

McCarthy said he'd had no previous knowledge of the accusations against Gaetz.

Gaetz has publicly proclaimed his innocence and no charges have been yet been filed. Though serving only his fifth year in Congress, his frequent television appearances and staunch support for former President Donald Trump have given him a high degree of visibility, especially in conservative circles.

His political career has been at risk since word of the investigation came out last month. He and other Florida Republicans and political allies are being examined as part of a broad public corruption inquiry by federal investigators that began last year during the Trump administration, according to two people familiar with the probe who described it only on condition of anonymity.

Prosecutors are said to be examining whether Gaetz and Joel Greenberg, a former county tax official, paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex. One person said investigators were looking at trips Gaetz and other men took and whether women were paid to have sex with them or later received government jobs.

Gaetz is also the subject of a bipartisan House Ethics Committee investigation into accusations including sexual misconduct, illegal drug use, spending campaign funds for personal use and accepting a bribe or impermissible gift.

Gaetz has said little to reporters since returning to Washington this week after Congress' spring recess. Most Republicans have avoided commenting on his problems or taken neutral stances, saying it is premature to form opinions about what should happen.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said removing Gaetz from his committees is “the least that could be done" to punish him if the charges against him prove true.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, AP Elections - Campaigns
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Capitol Police watchdog says force needs 'cultural change'
It's time for a culture change in the U.S. Capitol Police force
4:43PM ( 4 minutes ago )
House GOP leader: Won't punish Gaetz unless charges filed
The top House Republican says Rep. Matt Gaetz is innocent until proven guilty
4:43PM ( 4 minutes ago )
Wright's family wants stiffer charge for Minnesota ex-cop
A white former Minnesota police officer has made her first court appearance in the traffic-stop shooting of Black motorist Daunte Wright
4:30PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Equal pay bill nears approval in House, long odds in Senate
House Democrats are poised to pass legislation that they say would help close the gap between what men and women are paid in the workplace, though the measure faces little chance of overcoming Republican opposition in the Senate
2:49PM ( 1 hour ago )
Democrats begin long-shot push to expand the Supreme Court
Legislation introduced by a group of Democratic lawmakers would to add four seats to the nine-member Supreme Court, in a long-shot bid designed to counter the court’s rightward tilt during the Trump administration
2:35PM ( 2 hours ago )
Capitol Police watchdog says force needs a "culture change"
The top watchdog for the U.S. Capitol Police told a House committee Thursday that there is a need for a culture change within the force after broad failures in its response to the Jan. 6 insurrection, including missed intelligence predicting a “war” and weapons that were so old that officers didn’t feel comfortable using them
2:15PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
A retiring Castro to bring younger face to Cuba's communists
This week’s Communist Party congress in Cuba could be the last with a Castro at the helm of the island's all-powerful political institution
8:39AM ( 8 hours ago )
The Latest: WHO: Europe surpasses 1 million COVID-19 deaths
A top official from the World Health Organization says Europe has surpassed 1 million deaths from COVID-19
7:57AM ( 8 hours ago )
US Capitol Police watchdog to testify on Jan. 6 failures
The top watchdog for the U.S. Capitol Police will testify to Congress for the first time about the department’s broad failures before and during the Jan. 6 insurrection
6:09AM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
US expels Russian diplomats, imposes new round of sanctions
The White House is announcing the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats and sanctions against dozens of people and companies
9:24AM ( 7 hours ago )
Months after hack, US poised to announce sanctions on Russia
The Biden administration is preparing to announce new sanctions in response to a massive Russian hacking campaign that breached vital federal agencies, as well as for election interference
7:47AM ( 9 hours ago )
Big-business pushback against voting measures gains momentum
A pushback against new voting bills and laws in numerous states is gaining momentum
7:44PM ( 21 hours ago )
AP Elections
Business faces tricky path navigating post-Trump politics
The Republican Party and corporate America have shared common goals for decades, especially concerning low taxes and limiting regulations
4:30PM ( 4 days ago )
Caitlyn Jenner considers run for California governor
Caitlyn Jenner is considering a run for California governor
3:13PM ( 6 days ago )
Biden orders gun control actions -- but they show his limits
President Joe Biden is ordering a half-dozen executive actions aimed at addressing what he calls an “epidemic and an international embarrassment” of gun violence in America
6:05PM ( 6 days ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
Capitol Police watchdog says force needs 'cultural change'
It's time for a culture change in the U.S. Capitol Police force
4:43PM ( 4 minutes ago )
Wright's family wants stiffer charge for Minnesota ex-cop
A white former Minnesota police officer has made her first court appearance in the traffic-stop shooting of Black motorist Daunte Wright
4:30PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Gucci celebrates 100 years with Michele's 'Aria' collection
Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele is celebrating the fashion house’s 100th anniversary this year, giving historic sweep to a collection unveiled virtually Thursday
4:26PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Houston's expanded voting becomes target of GOP restrictions
The nation’s next big voting battle is underway in Texas
4:23PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Chicago releases video of fatal police shooting of boy, 13
Chicago’s police review board released body camera video on Thursday of a police officer’s fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy late last month
4:15PM ( 33 minutes ago )