News outlets including the Washington Post have retracted or amended reports claiming the FBI warned Giuliani he was the target of a Russian influence operation

Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani speaks during a news conference held by Donald Trump in the Briefing Room of the White House on September 27, 2020.

  • News outlets including the Washington Post retracted a claim about Rudy Giuliani.
  • Outlets retracted a claim that the FBI warned Giuliani he was being used to spread Russian disinformation.
  • Insider has amended its reporting in the light of the retraction.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Washington Post and other news outlets have retracted a claim that the FBI warned Rudy Giuliani that he was likely being targetted as part of a Russian disinformation campaign in 2019.

In an editor’s note the Post on Saturday said it was retracting a claim in a report Thursday that the FBI had warned both Giuliani and right-wing news network OANN about Russian efforts to use them to spread falsehoods.

It read: “Correction: An earlier version of this story, published Thursday, incorrectly reported that One America News was warned by the FBI that it was the target of a Russian influence operation. That version also said the FBI had provided a similar warning to Rudolph W. Giuliani, which he has since disputed. This version has been corrected to remove assertions that OAN and Giuliani received the warnings.”

Insider has amended its report on the claim in light of the retraction in the Post.

The New York Times and NBC News have withdrawn similar claims.

“An earlier version of this article misstated whether Rudolph W. Giuliani received a formal warning from the F.B.I. about Russian disinformation. Mr. Giuliani did not receive such a so-called defensive briefing,” reads the correction in the Times.

The reports all focussed on FBI raids on Giuliani’s office and apartment in Manhattan last week, in which agents seized computers and other devices belonging to Giuliani.

Investigators are reportedly probing whether Giuliani was acting on behalf of Ukrainian officials during his search for damaging information about Joe Biden, then Democratic presidential nominee, and his son, Hunter, in Ukraine in 2019.

The Times reported that Giuliani’s communications with the Trump administration over the firing of the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, in May 2019 were being scrutinised the federal agents.

Giuliani has denied any wrongdoing.

“I’ve never represented a Ukrainian national or official before the United States government,” Giuliani said in an interview on Fox News on Thursday in the wake of the raids.

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Former members of Trump’s inner circle are living in fear after Rudy Giuliani raid, report says

rudy giuliani oan oann
President Donald Trump’s lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani wipes sweat away after an interview with One America News Network’s Chanel Rion outside the White House West Wing in Washington, DC, on July 1, 2020.

  • The Rudy Giuliani raid has Trump allies feeling uneasy about what could come next, CNN reported.
  • A former Trump advisor said the raid is proof that officials are willing to pursue his inner circle.
  • Several Trump allies also said it “wouldn’t shock” them if Giuliani turned on the former president.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Trump allies are growing increasingly concerned about the future after former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s office and apartment were raided by federal agents this week, according to CNN.

On Wednesday, Giuliani, who acted as Trump’s former attorney, was the target of two raids in which investigators seized several of his electronic devices as well as a computer belonging to his personal assistant. The searches were in connection to a criminal probe into Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, The New York Times reported.

Trump’s allies and former members of his inner circle are now reportedly becoming increasingly worried about further raids and upcoming FBI investigations.

Read more: Trumpworld shuns Rudy: The inside story of Giuliani’s descent from ‘America’s mayor’ to presidential lawyer and now an FBI target

“This was a show of force that sent a strong message to a lot of people in Trump’s world that other things may be coming down the pipeline,” an advisor to the former president, who wished to stay anonymous, told CNN.

The advisor also described the Giuliani raid as “overkill” and said the raid was a worrying sign that investigators were more willing to pursue investigations than previously thought.

“I can’t for the life of me think why you would need to send seven FBI agents to go and collect a cellphone and laptop,” the advisor said.

Two other people close to Trump echoed these sentiments, according to CNN, but declined to be quoted.

The former New York City mayor has not been charged and denied any wrongdoing. His attorney said in a statement this week that it was a “corrupt double standard” that feds didn’t execute a search warrant against Hunter Biden as well.

“Republicans who are prominent supporters and defenders of President Trump … are subjected to false charges and procedures used in the past, if at all, in cases involving terrorists and organized criminals,” the statement said.

Some people, including ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, have since come out to predict that Giuliani will turn against Trump if prosecutors tightened the screws on him.

Another person who is close to the former president said that this outcome “wouldn’t shock” them at all.

“Even the most loyal people have their breaking point,” the person said, according to CNN. “I think we’ve seen some more surprising instances of things like that happening, especially with Michael Cohen.”

Cohen is serving a three-year prison sentence under house arrest after pleading guilty to multiple counts of campaign finance violations and tax evasion. He also pled guilty to lying to Congress as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.

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The FBI reportedly warned Giuliani in 2019 that Russia was using him as a tool to spread disinformation before the election

AP Rudy Giuliani
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington.

  • The FBI warned Rudy Giuliani in late 2019 that the Russian government was using him to spread disinformation about the Bidens, WaPo reported.
  • Giuliani ignored the warnings and continued his quest to dig up dirt on the Bidens.
  • He’s now the target of a federal criminal investigation into whether he violated lobbying laws.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The FBI warned former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in late 2019 that the Russian government was using him to spread disinformation about the Biden family ahead of the 2020 election, The Washington Post reported.

Giuliani was a fixture on conservative airwaves in the months leading up to the election, where he repeatedly amplified bogus conspiracy theories accusing then candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, of having corrupt ties to Ukraine. He also pushed the lie that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election, a talking point that can be traced back to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

The former mayor serves as former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, and his actions were so alarming to US officials that they warned the White House and Trump after Giuliani traveled to Kiev in December 2019 that Russia was using him to funnel disinformation to US audiences before the 2020 election.

Four former officials familiar with the matter told The Post the warnings were based on several sources, including intercepted communications. The intercepts are said to have shown that Giuliani communicated with multiple people who had ties to Russian intelligence during the Ukraine trip.

He specifically made the trip as part of his effort to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden related to his work for the Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma Holdings. One of the people he met with was the Ukrainian politician Andriy Derkach. The US government has since sanctioned Derkach and described him as an “active Russian agent.”

The Post reported that the intercepted communications raised red flags with US officials who worried that Russian officials were using Giuliani as a conduit to feed disinformation to Trump. After the White House was warned about the possibility, the report said, the national security advisor Robert O’Brien told the president to approach any information Giuliani gave him with caution.

Trump shrugged off the warnings, according to The Post. On Wednesday, the FBI raided Giuliani’s apartment and office in Manhattan and seized his electronic devices, as well as a computer belonging to his personal assistant, Jo Ann Zafonte. Zafonte was served with a grand jury subpoena, and The New York Times reported that the feds also raided the Washington, DC, home of one of Giuliani’s associates and a fellow attorney, Victoria Toensing.

The raids mark an aggressive new phase in a long-running criminal investigation into whether Giuliani broke foreign lobbying laws through his dealings with Ukraine. The Times later reported that at least one of the search warrants sought evidence about the abrupt firing of Marie Yovanovitch, the US’s former ambassador to Ukraine.

Specifically, prosecutors are said to be examining whether Giuliani was working on behalf of the Ukrainian prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, while pushing for Yovanovitch’s dismissal.

Yovannovitch appeared for a nine-hour, closed-door deposition on Capitol Hill related to the first impeachment inquiry into Trump. In her opening statement, she said that then-Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told her she “had done nothing wrong” but that there was a “concerted campaign’ to remove her, and that the department had been “under pressure from the President to remove [her] since Summer of 2018.”

Giuliani and his lawyer have denied any wrongdoing, and his attorney described the FBI’s raids as “legal thuggery.” The former New York mayor also a statement saying he was targeted because of a “corrupt double standard” and alleging that investigators were ignoring purported illicit activities on the part of Hunter Biden.

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Rudy Giuliani spreads nonsense conspiracy theories about the DOJ and the Bidens in Fox News appearance following FBI raids

Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani speaks during a news conference held by Donald Trump in the Briefing Room of the White House on September 27, 2020.

  • Rudy Giuliani told Tucker Carlson that he could have destroyed evidence seized by the FBI “years ago.”
  • Giuliani claimed that the evidence taken was “exculpatory” and amplified nonsense conspiracy theories about the Bidens and Ukraine.
  • He went on to say that the Justice Department should be investigated without providing credible evidence to support the demand.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said Thursday that he could have destroyed evidence that the FBI seized this week “years ago.”

During an appearance on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Giuliani described the raid on his home, saying, “At about six o’clock in the morning, there was a big bang, bang, bang on the door.” He added that the agents who executed the search warrant were professional and took seven or eight electronic devices, and two that did not belong to him.

In addition to Giuliani’s Manhattan home, the feds also raided his office and the Washington, DC, home of one of his associates and a fellow attorney, Victoria Toensing. They seized a computer belonging to his personal assistant, Jo Ann Zafonte and also served her with a subpoena to testify before a grand jury in May.

The raids marked an aggressive new phase in the longrunning federal investigation into whether Giuliani violated foreign lobbying laws through his dealings with Ukraine.

Giuliani told Carlson on Thursday that when agents raided his property, he pointed to hard drives purportedly filled with documents related to President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and asked, “Don’t you want these?”

The former mayor also issued a statement Wednesday through his attorney Robert Costello alleging that he was targeted because of a “corrupt double standard,” and saying investigators “left behind the only electronics that contain evidence of crimes, the Hunter Biden hard drives,” which he claimed to have offered up on “several occasions.”

Giuliani repeatedly told Carlson that the agents were required to take all electronics under the subpoena, but also that they shouldn’t have taken his word for what the hard drives contained.

“They could have been Donald Trump’s hard drives,” Giuliani said.

“I could have detroyed evidence years ago. I’ve had it for two years, and I haven’t destroyed it,” he added, and speculated about the timing of the raid while making the case for his cooperation and innocence.

Giuliani called the search warrant “illegal” without offering any evidence to back up the claim, and pushed the lie that the Biden family had broken the law for 30 years.

Giuliani claimed his dealings with Ukraine were related solely to his effort to prove Trump’s innocence with respect to the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election, which Trump was not charged with a crime in. Giuliani also said his work in Ukraine was connected to his quest to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden related to his work for the Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma Holdings..

“They won’t explain to me what they’re looking into for two years,” Giuliani said. “I’ve never represented a Ukranian national while with the US government.”

Carlson then alleged that Democrats are being, “paid to hate Russia” and Giuliani said the Justice Department should be investigated.

“They invaded my iCloud, and took documents that were priveleged. The Justice Department spied on me. We might as well be in East Berlin before the wall was up,” Giuliani said.

He is now the second Trump lawyer to have had his properties raided. The FBI executed search warrants on Trump’s former fixer and attorney, Michael Cohen, in 2018, and Cohen later pleaded guilty to several felonies including campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and lying to Congress.

On Thursday, Cohen relished Giuliani’s legal woes, telling CNN’s Alisyn Camerota, “My parents always told me it’s not nice to gloat, but Rudy, I told you so. I told you so!”

Cohen said that he told Giuliani, “Donald Trump doesn’t care about anyone or anything” and that Giuliani “will be the next one to be thrown under the bus.”

“And that’s exactly what’s going to happen,” he told CNN.

“We have no idea how expansive this investigation is going to ultimately reveal itself because Rudy’s an idiot. And that’s the problem. Rudy drinks too much, Rudy behaves in such an erratic manner that who knows what’s on those telephones or what’s on his computers.”

Camerota then asked Cohen what he thought Giuliani might do if prosecutors start tightening the screws on him, and whether he would “flip” and offer up information about Trump in exchange for leniency.

Cohen noted that before Trump became president, he and Giuliani did not like each other. “So do I think Rudy will give up Donald in a heartbeat? Absolutely,” he said.

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Rudy Giuliani’s neighbor said she saw the feds ‘bringing out a lot of stuff’ after raiding his Manhattan apartment

Rudy Guiliani's apartment building
Rudy Giuliani’s apartment building in New York City.

  • Rudy Giuliani’s neighbor said she saw people “bringing out a lot of stuff” after his apartment raid.
  • The feds raided Giuliani’s apartment and office and seized his electronic devices on Wednesday.
  • They also seized his assistant’s computer and served her with a federal grand jury subpoena.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A tenant in former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s apartment building told reporters on Wednesday that she saw investigators “bringing out a lot of stuff” after they raided his apartment and seized his electronic devices.

The FBI executed search warrants on Giuliani’s Manhattan apartment and his office, as well as the Washington, DC, home of one of his associates, Victoria Toensing. Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, also told ABC News that agents served Giuliani’s longtime assistant, Jo Ann Zafonte, with a federal grand jury subpoena.

“I just saw people,” the tenant in Giuliani’s building, Michele Herbert, told reporters after the raid. “I probably saw FBI jackets. But I just saw people, you know, and I saw all of you and I said, ‘What is going on?'”

“They’re probably, maybe, still up there in his apartment,” she added. “I really don’t know. They were bringing out a lot of stuff.”

Executing a search warrant on a lawyer is an extraordinary step to take, and securing such a warrant requires approval from a federal magistrate judge. The fact that a grand jury has been impaneled also indicates that the investigation into Giuliani is entering an aggressive new phase.

The feds have been scrutinizing Giuliani, who serves as former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, since at least 2019 over whether he violated foreign lobbying laws in his dealings with Ukraine. The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) stipulates that American citizens notify the Justice Department of any contacts they have with foreign governments or officials, and if they interact with the US government or media at the direction of those officials.

Giuliani spearheaded a behind-the-scenes effort to influence US foreign policy vis-a-vis Ukraine that formed the basis of Trump’s first impeachment. He also worked with a number of Russian and Ukrainian political operatives to dig up dirt on the Bidens ahead of the 2020 election, and he was instrumental in pushing the lie that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election – a bogus talking point that originated with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In October 2019, two of Giuliani’s Ukrainian business associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested on suspicion of trying to funnel foreign money into a pro-Trump super PAC and other entities to gain leverage in US political circles.

Prosecutors zeroed in on Giuliani as part of their broader investigation into Parnas and Fruman, and CNN reported that investigators from the Manhattan US attorney’s office approached Kevin McCallion, a lawyer in New York, earlier in 2019 to ask about Giuliani’s link to the two men.

Giuliani has acknowledged that he sought dirt on political adversaries, including President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and had contact with the former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko.

The FBI’s investigation into Giuliani includes a counterintelligence aspect that veteran prosecutors said suggested the FBI may see him as a national security threat. And last year, The Washington Post reported that US officials warned the White House that Russian intelligence services were using Giuliani to funnel disinformation to Trump.

Giuliani has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyer, Robert Costello, told The Times that what the FBI “did today was legal thuggery.”

“Why would you do this to anyone, let alone someone who was the associate attorney general, United States attorney, the mayor of New York City and the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States?” Costello said.

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A grand jury has been impaneled in the federal investigation into Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani
Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington.

  • Rudy Giuliani’s assistant has been served a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury, per ABC News.
  • The news marks a significant turning point in the ongoing criminal investigation into Giuliani.
  • Giuliani’s apartment and office were also raided on Wednesday, and the feds seized his electronic devices.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A grand jury has been impaneled in the federal investigation into former New York mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, his lawyer told ABC News.

The revelation came after The New York Times reported that FBI agents had executed a search warrant on Giuliani’s Manhattan apartment and office earlier Wednesday. Giuliani’s electronic devices were seized as was a computer belonging to his longtime assistant, Jo Ann Zafonte. Bob Costello, Giuliani’s lawyer, later told ABC News that the feds also served Zafonte with a subpoena to testify before the grand jury in May.

Executing a search warrant on a lawyer is an extraordinary step that requires approval from a federal magistrate judge, and Wednesday’s developments mark an aggressive turning point in the longrunning criminal investigation into whether Giuliani violated foreign lobbying laws in his dealings with Ukraine.

The Times first reported in 2019 that the Manhattan US attorney’s office was conducting a criminal probe into Giuliani’s business dealings. Specifically, investigators are said to be examining whether he violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires that American citizens notify the Justice Department of any contacts they have with foreign governments or officials, and if they interact with the US government or media at the direction of those officials.

Prosecutors zeroed in on Giuliani as part of a broader investigation into two of his Ukrainian business associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The two men were arrested in October 2019 on suspicion of trying to funnel foreign money into a pro-Trump super PAC and other entities to gain leverage in US political circles. Prosecutors also alleged that they tried to improperly influence US-Ukraine relations.

CNN reported that investigators from the Manhattan US attorney’s office approached Kevin McCallion, a lawyer in New York, earlier in 2019 to ask about Giuliani’s link to Parnas and Fruman. The investigation into the former New York mayor is also said to include a counterintelligence aspect, which indicates that the FBI may view him as a national security threat.

Giuliani, for his part, spearheaded a months-long, behind-the-scenes effort to influence US policy vis-a-vis Ukraine, an endeavor that ultimately led to then President Donald Trump’s first impeachment in 2019.

He was also in contact with several Russian and Ukrainian political operatives as part of a public quest to dig up dirt on then candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, ahead of the 2020 election. Giuliani’s actions were so alarming to US officials that, according to The Washington Post, they warned the White House that Russian intelligence agencies were using Giuliani to funnel disinformation to Trump.

One of Giuliani’s associates, Andriy Derkach, was recently sanctioned by the US and described as an “active Russian agent.” Amid news of Derkach’s sanctioning, Giuliani acknowledged in an interview with The Daily Beast that there was “50/50” chance he’d worked with a Russian spy and shrugged off the matter.

After news of the FBI’s raids broke Wednesday, Giuliani’s attorney described them as “legal thuggery,” adding, “Why would you do this to anyone, let alone someone who was the associate attorney general, United States attorney, the mayor of New York City and the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States?”

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A Texas couple who deleted Facebook posts bragging about being at the Capitol riot was arrested for assaulting police officers, FBI says

mark and jalise middleton
Facebook records in the criminal complaint show Mark and Jalise Middleton, FBI said.

  • A Texas couple has been charged with assaulting police officers during the Capitol siege.
  • A criminal complaint says the two were captured on police body cameras striking officers.
  • In since-deleted posts, the Middletons bragged about their participation on Facebook.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A couple from North Texas was arrested Wednesday on charges related to the siege at the US Capitol on January 6, when a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters breached the building to disrupt the certification of the election.

In a criminal complaint, the Federal Bureau of Investigations said Mark and Jalise Middleton of Forestburg were captured on footage from body cameras worn by police that showed them assaulting two Metropolitan Police Department officers who were guarding the Capitol.

They are facing charges that include assaulting police officers and remaining on restricted grounds, though they did not appear to have entered the building.

The footage shows the police officers struggling against rioters who are pushing against a barricade and trying to break the police line, ignoring commands from officers to step back, the complaint said.

Read more: Trump and his advisors are shrugging off DOJ’s Capitol riot probe. But they see danger in the Georgia and New York investigations.

One man wearing a Trump beanie, later identified as Mark Middleton, 51, pushes against the officers and the barricade with his body. When officers repeatedly instructed Middleton to get back, he yelled “f— you!” and continued to push. At one point, he grabs one of the officers and attempts to pull him forward.

Beside Mark, a woman wearing a Trump 2020 beanie, later identified as Jalise Middleton, 50, also grabbed at the officer with her hands, the complaint said. When another officer stepped in, Jalise Middleton struck him too.

The Middletons continued to strike the officers and jab flagpoles at their faces until one officer deployed a chemical spray, forcing them to retreat.

mark and jalise middleton
The criminal complaint included still images of officers’ body camera that purportedly showed the Middletons assaulting officers.

After receiving a tip, the FBI examined photos and videos the Middletons had shared on Facebook.

“We are on the front lines. We helped push down the barriers. Jalise and I got pepper sprayed, clubbed, and tear gassed. We had to retreat, but more patriots pushed forward, and they’re taking back our house,” Mark Middleton said in a video shared to his personal account, the complaint said.

“Do not believe the news media, we’re not rioters or mobs,” he said in a separate comment. “We’ve been the ones supporting the police, backing the police, but this is how we’re being treated?”

Jalise Middleton made incriminating posts on her Facebook page too.

“We fought the cops to get in the Capital and got pepper sprayed and beat but by gosh the patriots got in!” she said. When someone asked why they fought the cops, she replied: “To get in the Capital to send them bastards a clear message that this won’t be tolerated.”

The complaint said Jalise Middleton deleted the above post days after making them.

Facebook has said it was preserving data related to the Capitol siege in order to aid law enforcement.

To date, at least 439 people have been arrested in the Capitol insurrection.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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Rep. Matt Gaetz attended drug-fueled parties where attendees sometimes had sex and money changed hands, report says

Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz.

  • Rep. Matt Gaetz reportedly attended drug-fueled parties where attendees sometimes had sex.
  • After the parties, money sometimes changed hands, CNN reported on Wednesday.
  • Gaetz made payments between 2018 and 2019 to at least one woman who went to the parties.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz was a fixture at parties that frequently involved drug use and sex, and after which money sometimes exchanged hands, CNN reported.

Two women who attended several of the parties told the news outlet that the events took place in Florida and often featured men who were active in local Republican politics. CNN reported that the first thing some women were told to do was put their phones away because the men didn’t want the parties to be documented on social media or in photographs.

Partygoers would share drugs like ecstasy and cocaine, and “some had sex,” the report said. After some of the parties, money was sent to some attendees, and CNN said it viewed digital receipts showing that Gaetz and his associate Joel Greenberg used payment apps to send “hundreds of dollars to at least one woman who attended the parties.”

The payments are said to have been made between 2018 and 2019 and the label for at least one of them said it was for travel expenses.

These details are likely of high interest to federal investigators who are probing whether the Florida congressman had a sexual relationship with a minor and broke federal sex-trafficking laws. Greenberg, who has already been indicted on 33 counts, appears to be close to a plea deal and has been cooperating with prosecutors against Gaetz since last year.

Greenberg gave investigators information about an “array of topics,” according to The New York Times, including telling them that he and Gaetz had interactions with women who were given cash and gifts in exchange for sex.

Politico also reported that the feds obtained a search warrant and seized Gaetz’s iPhone in December. The report said that Gaetz changed his phone number last year and that investigators also seized his former girlfriend’s phone in November.

The GOP lawmaker has fervently denied the allegations against him and claimed the Justice Department’s investigation into him is part of an elaborate and convoluted scheme to extort his family for millions of dollars. A spokesperson for Gaetz did not directly respond to CNN’s request for comment but questioned the use of anonymous sources.

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Matt Gaetz sought a preemptive pardon from Trump before he left office, according to report

Matt Gaetz
CHEYENNE, WY – JANUARY 28: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) holds a phone to the microphone as Donald Trump Jr. speaks remotely to a crowd during a rally against Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) on January 28, 2021 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Gaetz and Trump Jr. added their voices to a growing effort to vote Cheney out of office after she voted in favor of impeaching Donald Trump.

  • Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz sought a pardon from Trump before he left office.
  • The New York Times reported that Gaetz wanted “blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself” and allies.
  • The lawmaker is under federal investigation over whether he violated sex trafficking laws.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida sought “blanket pardons” for himself and his political allies from President Donald Trump shortly before Trump left office in January, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The Times, citing two people familiar with the discussions, said Gaetz asked the Trump White House, in its final weeks, to grant him immunity for any crimes for which he might later be convicted.

Gaetz is currently being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, and broke sex trafficking laws by doing so.

The department began investigating Gaetz late last summer as part of a broader inquiry into the former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last August on 14 felony counts, including carrying out the sex trafficking of a minor between the ages of 14 and 17. Last week, it was reported that the girl at the heart of the Gaetz inquiry is the same one who was involved in the sex trafficking charge against Greenberg.

Federal prosecutors started investigating Gaetz under then Attorney General William Barr’s tenure, and Barr and several other senior Trump appointees at the Justice Department were briefed on the probe. The Times reported that it was “unclear” if Gaetz or the White House “knew at the time of the inquiry, or who else he sought pardons for.”

Read more: Matt Gaetz’s Florida sex game included a ‘Harry Potter’ challenge and ‘extra points’ for sleeping in sorority houses, a female Republican tells Insider

The Florida Republican “did not tell White House aides that he was under investigation for potential sex trafficking violations when he made the request,” the newspaper said.

Gaetz has fervently denied the allegations against him and said the investigation is part of an elaborate, multimillion dollar extortion scheme against him and his family.

However, Gaetz said he first learned of the alleged extortion plot in March, while the department’s investigation into the sex trafficking allegations had been underway for months. This doesn’t necessarily mean Gaetz’s claims of an extortion scheme are untrue, but it does indicate the department’s probe was not opened as a result of any such scheme.

The Florida lawmaker made headlines during Trump’s term in office for his full-throated defense of the former president and his endorsement of Trump’s outlandish conspiracy theories. But in the days since news of the Justice Department’s investigation broke, there hasn’t been a peep from Trumpworld.

In fact, as Insider reported last month, some in Trump’s orbit are secretly celebrating the conservative firebrand’s predicament, with one former White House staffer saying they “feel a little vindicated.”

“He’s the meanest person in politics,” this person told Insider.

A former Trump campaign aide echoed that sentiment to Politico, telling the outlet, “Anyone that has ever spent 10 minutes with the guy would realize he’s an unserious person.”

Others pointed to Gaetz’s defense in the wake of the allegations against him, and in particular his interview last week with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, which Carlson himself admitted was “one of the weirdest” he had ever conducted.

One Trump confidant agreed, telling Politico the interview was “an absolutely embarrassing trainwreck.”

Spokespeople for Gaetz and Trump did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Rep. Matt Gaetz reportedly bragged about the ‘access’ to younger women he got from a former government official who was indicted for sex trafficking

Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz.

  • Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz reportedly bragged about how he got “access” to women from a Florida tax collector who’s since been indicted for sex trafficking.
  • The former tax collector, Joel Greenberg, introduced Gaetz to the women, The Washington Post reported.
  • The DOJ is now investigating whether Gaetz had sex with a minor and broke sex trafficking laws.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Washington Post reported on Friday that Rep. Matt Gaetz rescheduled Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign events in 2018 so that they’d “end the night in a college town.”

Gaetz was assisting DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign at the time, and sources told the outlet that Gaetz sought to hang out with younger crowds during the election.

A source also told The Post that Gaetz boasted about the “access” to women he got from associating with Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector who was indicted last year on 14 felony counts, including carrying out the sex trafficking of a minor between the ages of 14 and 17. Greenberg has pleaded not guilty.

“Matt was never shy about talking about his relationship to Joel and the access to women that Joel provided him,” the source said. The Post also reported that Gaetz showed photos and videos of nude women to people involved in Florida politics.

People who heard Gaetz and Greenberg discuss their encounters said that Greenberg introduced Gaetz to women, and that Gaetz had sex with them and later showed photos of them to people in Florida.

“What these videos implied was that there was something of a sexual nature going on with everyone,” the source told The Post.

Friday’s revelation follows news from the New York Times that the Justice Department has been investigating whether Gaetz broke federal sex trafficking laws and whether he engaged in an illegal sexual relationship with a 17-year-old.

The Times also revealed that Gaetz’s investigation was linked to an investigation into Greenberg and that the two men had paid women for sex at various Florida hotels. As part of the wide-ranging investigation, the Justice Department is said to be examining whether Gaetz used campaign money during his encounters with women.

On Thursday, CNN reported that Gaetz showed House colleagues photos and videos of nude women and bragged about his sex life.

The Post’s reporting on Friday indicates that Gaetz may have engaged in the same behavior at parties with Greenberg and others involved in Florida politics.

Earlier Friday, Gaetz’s spokesperson, Luke Ball, resigned from his position, citing principle as the reason, according to NBC News.

“I have never paid for sex. I have never had sex with an underage person as an adult,” Gaetz told the Post. “I have dated women in college and graduate school, and have boasted about how great they are across the board, as boyfriends do. At times women I have dated have joined me at campaign events.”

Gaetz is also alleged to have sought sexual encounters on websites like Seeking Arrangements and is reported to have used drugs and given drugs to a woman during at least one of the experiences, according to the Times.

According to the Post, an anonymous complaint was submitted to former House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office in 2018 about Gaetz making a young female staffer uncomfortable. Ryan’s staffers reportedly had a conversation with Gaetz, but the issue was not looked into any further.

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