AG Bill Barr reportedly told a US attorney ‘I am going to f—ing fire your a–‘ if he talked to Matt Gaetz about DOJ business

Bill Barr
Attorney General Bill Barr has called China and Huawei a “monumental danger” to US economic and national security interests.

  • Bill Barr threatened to fire a US attorney after he spoke with Matt Gaetz about DOJ business, Politico reported.
  • “If I ever hear of you talking to Gaetz … I am going to f—ing fire your a–,” Barr said.
  • He reportedly made the threat last year, while the DOJ was investigating Gaetz for sex trafficking.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Then-Attorney General Bill Barr was furious last year after a US attorney close to Rep. Matt Gaetz spoke to the lawmaker about Justice Department business, Politico reported Wednesday.

“If I ever hear of you talking to Gaetz or any other congressman again about business before the department, I am going to f—ing fire your a–,” Barr reportedly told Larry Keefe, Gaetz’s former law partner who then-President Donald Trump later tapped to lead the US attorney’s office for the Northern District of Florida.

The threat came as Keefe was looking to launch an investigation into purported voter fraud in Florida while then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was on the cusp of being the party’s nominee for the general election, according to Politico.

The exact timing of Barr’s phone call to Keefe is not clear, but it took place in the late summer or early fall, as the department was also investigating whether Gaetz had sex with a minor and broke federal sex-trafficking laws.

Sources familiar with the matter told Politico that lawyers in the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section were concerned that the scope of the investigation Keefe wanted was too broad. Keefe, meanwhile, is said to have discussed the situation with Gaetz. The Florida lawmaker told Politico that he and Keefe had just spoken broadly about “legal doctrine related to jurisdiction and venue” and not about the specifics of any investigation.

Eventually, Trump learned of their conversation, and Gaetz told Politico he’d spoken to the former president about voter fraud linked to absentee ballots, and then raised a legal theory Keefe had mentioned to him.

“I said to [Trump] that an appreciation for the Keefe position on venue would give good U.S. attorneys in every capital city the necessary jurisdiction to root out fraud,” Gaetz told Politico. “I also shared with President Trump that Keefe had faced substantial resistance from the Department of Justice.”

Gaetz said Trump told then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who was at the meeting, to discuss the idea with Barr. Upon hearing about the conversation, Barr became infuriated and called Keefe and threatened to fire him, Politico said.

Gaetz told the outlet he was not aware of the phone call but noted that he did get a call from Keefe saying he couldn’t discuss DOJ matters with Gaetz. Keefe told the outlet it was “not appropriate” for him to discuss his work as US attorney but that he stands by his decisions.

Barr was one of several senior Trump appointees at the department who were aware of – and greenlit – the investigation into Gaetz. Earlier this month, Politico reported that Barr specifically avoided being seen or photographed with Gaetz in public while the investigation was ongoing.

The New York Times revealed the existence of the Gaetz sex-trafficking probe late last month. The Republican lawmaker has denied any wrongdoing and said he never paid women for sex or had a sexual relationship with a minor as an adult man. Prosecutors are said to have zeroed in on Gaetz as part of a broader probe into his associate, the former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg. Greenberg has been indicted on 33 felony counts, including carrying out the sex trafficking of a minor between the ages of 14 and 17.

Earlier this month, prosecutors and Greenberg’s defense attorneys told a federal judge that they were close to striking a plea deal.

“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, told reporters afterward.

The Times later reported that Greenberg has been cooperating against Gaetz since last year.

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Matt Gaetz teased a ‘fight back’ ad, trying to shift attention from sex-trafficking allegations by alleging that CNN is out to get him

Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

  • Matt Gaetz tweeted an ad due to air in a self-styled fightback after allegations against him.
  • Gaetz was accused of trafficking teenagers and paying for sex, which he strongly denies.
  • His ad features undercover footage of a CNN employee, presented to suggest the network is trying to harm him.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Rep. Matt Gaetz is planning to push back at allegations he was involved in sex trafficking via an ad campaign targeting CNN, according to reports.

Politico first reported on the planned six-figure ad campaign, in which Gaetz will portray the federal investigation into the trafficking allegations and media coverage of it as part of a “fake news” plot to oust him from Congress.

Gaetz tweeted the video on Wednesday:

The Florida lawmaker has strenuously denied allegations of trafficking, that involve claims he was involved in a sexual relationship with a minor.

The ad will run on local networks in Gaetz’s district, as well as on some national TV networks, the Friends of Matt Gaetz campaign committee told Politico.

The clip shows that the ad will feature footage from Project Veritas, the conservative activist group that aims to expose what it claims is bias and malpractice in liberal institutions and the media.

The groups has been accused of unethical practices and spreading disinformation by deceptively editing its clips.

The ad attacks CNN, featuring hidden-camera footage of Charles Chester, a technical worker at CNN, discussing its coverage of the Gaetz scandal.

Chester, who does not appear to be a journalist, describes Gaetz as a “problem for the Democratic party” and suggests that CNN will produce further stories to “keep hurting him.”

Chester was lured into discussing CNN by a female Project Veritas employee who posed as a Tinder date and secretly filmed their conversations, a CNN source told Mediaite.

Gaetz became known as one of Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders in Congress during the Republican’s 4 years in office.

The investigation into Gaetz’s alleged involvement in trafficking stems from a separate criminal probe into an associate, Joel Greenberg.

Greenberg worked as a local tax official, and is suspected of crimes including trafficking, financial offences, and a bid to smear a political rival with false rumors.

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Matt Gaetz’s ally and accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg made 150 Venmo payments to dozens of women and a 17-year-old girl, report says

Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.

  • Joel Greenberg made more than 150 payments to dozens of women, The Daily Beast reported.
  • One of the people paid by Greenberg, accused of sex trafficking, was a 17-year-old girl.
  • Greenberg is an ally of Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is facing a Justice Department probe.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Joel Greenberg, a former elected official in Florida and ally of Rep. Matt Gaetz, made more than 150 payments via Venmo to dozens of women as well as a 17-year-old girl, according to documents reviewed by The Daily Beast.

Greenberg, who was indicted on 33 counts last year, including one related to sex trafficking, paid the 17-year-old $300 in a June 2017 payment labeled “Food,” according to The Daily Beast.

Gaetz, a Republican of Florida, sent a Venmo payment to Greenberg nearly a year later that was intended for the same person, according to The Daily Beast.

Gaetz is the subject of an investigation by the Justice Department into whether he violated sex-trafficking laws. The investigation into Gaetz came out of the probe into Greenberg, who has been cooperating with investigators, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Read more: We spoke with 21 of Matt Gaetz’s high-school classmates. Some say they could have predicted the congressman’s sex scandal.

The Daily Beast had previously reported that Gaetz paid $900 to Greenberg, who then paid the same amount in various quantities to several young women labeled in Venmo as “Tuition” and “School.”

The outlet reported Wednesday it reviewed additional documents that showed many payments Greenberg made to women with labels that included “Ass,” “Stuff,” or just a lipstick kiss emoji.

The new documents also showed a $300 payment Gaetz made to Greenberg in November 2018 that was simply labeled with the “love hotel emoji.” The Daily Beast also confirmed Greenberg booked a single night at a hotel for the same date.

The outlet also reported Greenberg paid thousands of dollars to a woman who would later date Gaetz.

When reached for comment on The Daily Beast report, a representative for Gaetz said: “This seems more like a story about Mr. Greenberg than Mr. Gaetz.”

Gaetz has denied all of the allegations against him and said he has never paid for sex.

The Greenberg case dates back to June 2020 when he was arraigned on federal charges, prompting him to resign from his elected position as tax collector for Florida’s Seminole County. Since then, he’s been charged with 33 counts, including carrying out sex trafficking of a minor between the ages of 14 and 17.

Greenberg has pleaded not guilty on all charges, but The Orlando Sentinel reported last week that Greenberg is expected to strike a plea deal and plead guilty to some of the charges by mid-May. He could face 10 years to life in prison just on the sex trafficking charge.

Prosecutors allege that Greenberg trafficked a minor with whom he was engaged in a “sugar daddy” sexual relationship and said he launched a smear campaign against a professional rival whom he falsely accused of sexual misconduct.

Earlier this week, The Times reported that Greenberg has been cooperating with federal investigators since last year, reportedly giving investigators information about an “array of topics,” including telling them that he and Gaetz exchanged cash and gifts for sex with women.

The report came after prosecutors and Greenberg’s defense reportedly told a judge last week they were close to reaching a plea deal. Greenberg’s lawyer hinted that his client was cooperating, telling reporters last week, “I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.”

The Times reported that investigators are scrutinizing Gaetz and Greenberg’s interactions with “multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments.”

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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’s iPhone seized by the FBI in sex trafficking probe, as associate cooperates with investigation

matt gaetz iphone
Matt Gaetz’s phone was seized by federal agents investigating the sex trafficking allegations surrounding him.

  • Federal agents seized the iPhone of Rep. Matt Gaetz, Politico reported.
  • The Florida GOP lawmaker is facing federal sex trafficking allegations.
  • His phone seizure comes as reports suggest investigators have secured the cooperation of a close associate.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Federal agents have reportedly seized the phone of Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is facing federal sex trafficking allegations, as reports suggest investigators have secured the cooperation of a close associate.

Federal agents executed a search warrant this winter during which they seized Gaetz’s iPhone, Politico reported, citing three people who Gaetz had told about the situation.

The Florida GOP congressman reportedly changed his phone number in December last year, and his former girlfriend’s phone was also seized in November, Politico reported.

The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz, a prominent Trump supporter in Congress, had sexual relations with a 17-year-old and if he violated sex-trafficking laws by paying for sex. Gaetz has denied the allegations and claimed they are part of an extortion plot against him.

Gaetz is alleged to have sent $900 to his political associate Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last year on sex trafficking charges, who then sent the money to women via payment apps.

In a further sign of Gaetz’s mounting legal troubles, the New York Times reported Tuesday that Greenberg has been co-operating with investigators since last year to provide information.

Greenberg told investigators about an “array of topics” and said he and Gaetz provided women with cash and gifts in exchange for sex, two people familiar with the investigation told the New York Times.

The Justice Department indicted Greenberg last June and has charged him with 33 counts, including carrying out the sex trafficking of a minor between the ages

“Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex,” a representative for Gaetz told Insider on Tuesday in response to the New York Times report.

“Based on reporting from Politico, it seems Mr. Greenberg has been trying to ensnare innocent people in his troubles for quite some time.”

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Matt Gaetz’s indicted associate Joel Greenberg has been cooperating against him since last year, report says

Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is seen during a break in the House Judiciary Committee hearing on policing practices and law enforcement accountability in the Capitol Visitor Center on Wednesday, June 10, 2020.

  • Joel Greenberg has been cooperating against Rep. Matt Gaetz since last year, NYT reported.
  • Greenberg reportedly told investigators that he and Gaetz had interactions with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex.
  • Gaetz has been embroiled in a political firestorm since The Times reported that he was being investigated over whether he broke sex trafficking laws.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector and close associate of GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, has been cooperating with federal investigators since last year, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Greenberg has given investigators information about an “array of topics,” the report said, including encounters that he and Gaetz allegedly had with women who were given cash and gifts in exchange for sex.

The Justice Department first indicted Greenberg last June, and he resigned from his government position shortly after. Since then, he’s been charged with 33 counts, including carrying out the sex trafficking of a minor between the ages of 14 and 17.

Gaetz, meanwhile, has been embroiled in a political firestorm since The Times reported last month that the Justice Department was investigating him as part of the Greenberg inquiry. In particular, the feds are said to be looking into whether Gaetz had sex with a minor and violated sex trafficking laws.

The Florida Republican lawmaker has fervently denied the allegations against him and claimed the department’s probe is part of an elaborate and convoluted extortion scheme against his family.

A spokesperson for Gaetz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tuesday’s reporting comes after prosecutors and Greenberg’s defense attorneys told a judge last week that they were close to reaching a plea deal.

It’s unclear what the terms of the agreement would be, but Greenberg’s lawyer Fritz Scheller hinted that his client was cooperating with prosecutors, telling reporters last week, “I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.”

It’s unusual for prosecutors or defense attorneys to publicize the existence of a plea deal because they’d want to avoid tipping off other targets.

“I don’t know if [Scheller’s] foreshadowing, I don’t know what the motive would be because generally cooperators don’t want people to know they’re cooperating,” Sherine Ebadi, a former FBI agent who was the lead agent in the government’s case against ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, told Insider. “But maybe that buck has passed because this case has been so publicly talked about.”

The Times’ report on Tuesday, which revealed that Greenberg has been cooperating since last year, also suggests he didn’t have much to lose when lawyers for the prosecution and defense told the court last week that a plea deal was on the horizon.

Based on media reporting about the Gaetz probe, prosecutors likely have a large trail of breadcrumbs to follow as they work to corroborate the allegations against the GOP lawmaker.

The investigation is said to be looking into whether he used campaign money to fund travel for women, and The Times reported investigators were scrutinizing Gaetz and Greenberg’s interactions with “multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments.”

CBS News reported that prosecutors were also zeroing in on a trip Gaetz took to the Bahamas in late 2018 or early 2019 with a hand surgeon and marijuana entrepreneur who is accused of footing the bill for female sex workers, hotel rooms, and travel expenses. And The Daily Beast reported that Gaetz sent Greenberg $900 via Venmo in 2018 and that Greenberg then sent $900, in varying amounts, to three young women.

But there’s other information that prosecutors would need to build a strong case, details they may not be able to glean from records and documents.

That’s where Greenberg comes in.

For one, he could have been privy to conversations in which only he and Gaetz were present or private communications that took place on encrypted apps, in text messages that could have been deleted, or on a burner phone.

“There could be a number of things they did that the government may not have access to or doesn’t even know exist,” Ebadi said.

But the biggest thing he could speak to, she added, is whether Gaetz expressed his intent in the conduct he’s accused of engaging in.

“Depending on what prosecutors charge, often an element in various cases is intent, or proving someone’s knowledge or willfulness when committing a crime,” Ebadi said, adding that with Greenberg, “you could have someone that was present when [Gaetz] was making statements like, ‘I’m going to do this,’ or ‘I’m doing this for these particular reasons.’ Those are crucial words in a case like this, especially when it comes to that element of intent.”

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Matt Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg has been accused of everything from acting as a vigilante police officer to trying to hack rival politicians

Joel Greenberg, tax collector for Seminole County
  • Embattled former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg had a troubled tenure in office, the NYT reports.
  • Before being charged with federal crimes, Greenberg was accused of abusing his office and wasting taxpayer funds.
  • Greenberg, an associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz, is now a key player in the investigation against Gaetz.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Embattled former Seminole County, Florida, tax collector Joel Greenberg, now a major player in the federal probe against Rep. Matt Gaetz, had a long history of being accused of official misconduct, including having complaints filed accusing him of acting as a vigilante police officer and abusing taxpayer funds.

A new examination of Greenberg’s tenure by The New York Times on Sunday uncovered numerous warning signs about Greenberg’s conduct in office. After a somewhat troubled youth, Greenberg was elected to the position of tax collector in the county in 2016, defeating the longtime incumbent in a primary challenge.

The Times said that Greenberg soon found himself “bored” in his position and sought ways to use it to his personal advantage, a tendency that would lead to his downfall and formal resignation in 2020.

Read more: Matt Gaetz is employing Trump-style fundraising pitches – including automatic recurring contributions that could dupe donors

In a complaint filed with the county’s sheriff’s office and reported by The Times, a woman said that in 2017 Greenberg pulled her over with his tax collector’s badge around his neck and yelled at her for apparently cutting him off, saying she drove “like a bat out of hell.”

Greenberg was also accused of spending over $1 million in taxpayer funds for gear including weapons and a drone, creating “no-show jobs” for family and members of his wedding party, and of trying to solicit help to hack computers belonging to member of the county commission who had criticized him.

One lawyer who represented one of Greenberg’s former employees told The Times: “It’s like the Tiger King got elected tax collector.”

Greenberg was also accused of stalking Brian Beute, a rival Democratic candidate for tax collector and local music teacher who had advocated against a real estate development supported by Greenberg.

Greenberg’s actions, according to the indictment against him, included sending a fake anonymous letter to the school claiming Beute had an inappropriate relationship with a student (and making a Facebook account to perpetuate the same false claims) and creating a fake Twitter account posing as Beutler that posted white supremacist and pro-segregationist content.

Greenberg was first criminally charged with stalking Beute and unlawfully using his identity by federal prosecutors in June 2020.

He now faces over 30 federal charges ranging from sex trafficking of a child, aggravated identity theft, creating fake IDs, wire fraud, illegal monetary transfers, and conspiracy to bribe a public official to defraud the Small Business Administration for COVID-19 relief funds, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The Sentinel reports that Greenberg is expected to strike a plea deal to plead guilty to some of the charges by mid-May. Greenberg faces 10 years to life in prison on the sex trafficking charge alone.

During his tumultuous tenure as tax collector, Greenberg became friends with Gaetz, and was brought into the fray of Republican politics in the state. He even spoke at a rally for former President Donald Trump in 2016.

Gaetz is under federal investigation for possible trafficking of a minor across state lines. Authorities are also examining whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid women for sex. Gaetz has denied the accusations and has not yet been charged with a crime.

Insider’s Sonam Sheth recently reported that the extent of Greenberg’s current legal woes could up the pressure on him to cooperate against others involved in the charges against him, and potentially cause serious trouble for Gaetz.

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Gaetz and Trump rep challenge report that the Florida congressman was denied a meeting with the former president

Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is seen during a break in the House Judiciary Committee hearing on policing practices and law enforcement accountability in the Capitol Visitor Center on Wednesday, June 10, 2020.

  • GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz was reportedly denied a meeting with Trump, CNN reported.
  • Gaetz called the report false and said he never sought out a meeting with the former president.
  • The DOJ is currently investigating whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz, who is facing federal sex trafficking allegations, was reportedly denied a meeting with Donald Trump as aides try to distance the former president from him, CNN reported.

Two anonymous sources who were familiar with the situation told the outlet that the Florida congressman tried to schedule a visit to Mar-a-Lago this week but was denied.

Following CNN’s report, Gaetz took to Twitter to say he never asked for a meeting.

“This is a total lie. I am on a pre-planned vacation with my fiancĂ©e. I was welcomed at Trump Doral days ago,” Gaetz said in a tweet. “No such meeting was denied nor sought. Gabby, “unnamed sources” lied. When can we expect a retraction?”

Trump spokesman Jason Miller also said no meeting was ever sought.

“This @CNN story is complete fake news. No such scheduling or meeting request was ever made, and therefore, it could never have been declined. Take note that this story has zero on-the-record sources. It’s literally made-up. We are demanding a full retraction. #FakeNews,” Miller said in a tweet.

The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and violated federal sex trafficking laws. There have been a number of new developments in the two weeks since news of the investigation was first revealed.

Gaetz, whose office issued a statement saying he “has never paid for sex,” allegedly sent $900 to political ally Joel Greenberg, who was previously indicted on sex trafficking charges. Greenberg then sent the money to three women via payment apps.

The House Ethics Committee has opened a bipartisan investigation into the allegations against Gaetz. He has been accused of sexual misconduct, illicit drug use, and sharing nude images on the House floor.

Trump was reportedly talked out of defending Gaetz by his aides as allegations surfaced and has remained silent on the issue. He has, however, denied reports that Gaetz ever asked for a blanket pardon from him before he left office.

Gaetz’s office did not reply to Insider’s email request for comment.

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

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Matt Gaetz thought he could ‘do what he wanted’ with women’s nudes, a colleague said. That’s not how it works.

Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) awaits the State of the Union address in the chamber of the House of Representatives on February 4, 2020 in Washington, DC.

  • Matt Gaetz once said the recipient of a private image could do with it what they want, his former colleague said this week.
  • The Florida lawmaker has recently been accused of sharing nude images of women in Congress.
  • Insider spoke to an expert to find out why this common assumption is wrong and also dangerous.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When the state senate in Florida passed a bill that would ban nonconsensual pornography back in 2015, only two lawmakers voted against it. One of them was Rep. Matt Gaetz.

Former state Rep. Tom Goodson, who was the main sponsor of the legislation at the time, told the Orlando Sentinel this week that when he met with Gaetz to discuss his opposition, it was clear that “Matt was absolutely against it.”

“He thought the picture was his to do with what he wanted,” Goodson said, according to the Sentinel. “He thought that any picture was his to use as he wanted to, as an expression of his rights.”

Read more: A Trump appointee who drank vodka and had sex on the General Services Administration building’s roof is back with a new political committee, documents show

Gaetz’s supposed outlook has become even more problematic now that the lawmaker is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegedly showing several colleagues in Congress nude videos and images of women he’d slept with. This is on top of an already existing sex trafficking probe.

What is most striking about Goodson’s claims this week is Gaetz’s supposed assumption that the recipient of a private photo can do what they want with it. This is not only wrong, but also dangerous for victims of image-based abuse.

According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, the very definition of nonconsensual pornography, otherwise known as revenge porn, is “the distribution of private, sexually explicit images of individuals without their consent.”

Amy Hasinoff, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver who recently co-authored a study on image-based abuse, told Insider: “Just because someone consented to send a photo doesn’t mean the receiver has consent to distribute it. That’s a completely separate act.”

“If somebody wants to distribute your sexual images, they have to get your permission first,” she added.

For Hasinoff, this should be a no-brainer. It should be obvious that certain pieces of information – whether it’s health, financial, or sexual information – are meant to be private. It should be obvious that, like any other sex act, consent should be sought before sharing private images.

But unfortunately, nonconsensual pornography is still far too prevalent. A nationwide study in 2017 found that 1 in 8 Americans who have social media have been targets of image-based abuse. Women were significantly more likely to have been targets compared to men.

On top of this, the consequences of this crime can be devastating: 51% of US victims have contemplated suicide, according to research carried out by the campaign End Revenge Porn.

“We need to dispel the myth that the victim has done anything wrong”

Many victims of image-based abuse suffer from bad mental health because they end up becoming the subject of slut-shaming and victim-blaming. The very name “revenge porn” is misleading because it implies that the perpetrators are motivated by revenge.

Former Rep. Katie Hill, who was forced to resign from Congress in 2019 after nude images of her were leaked, told Fortune last year: “We need to dispel the myth that the victim has done anything wrong. When you hear…’She should never have taken those photos’ we’re talking about photos in many cases that were not even taken consensually, let alone distributed consensually.”

Hill is still struggling from the fall-out of what happened: She recently lost a lawsuit against the Daily Mail for publishing the photos of her (her team plans on appealing the case.)

katie hill congress
Former Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) answers questions from reporters at the Capitol following her final speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on October 31, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Like many victims, her mental health has also suffered. “One of the most overwhelming feelings is knowing that the vast majority of people who know who I am if I encounter them on the street and they recognize me. I have to hold it within my mind that there’s a very good chance they’ve seen my naked pictures,” she told Fortune.

“That’s a really shitty thing to think about,” she added.

After leaving Congress, Hill vowed to campaign against revenge porn, most likely why the recent Gaetz allegations have hit her hard.

Last week, the former Representative tweeted that she felt “depressed, anxious, nauseated” by the new claims, especially because she once considered Gaetz an unlikely ally (he had defended her during the scandal.)

“I have to wonder about what his motives were when he defended me back then,” Hill said in an interview with CNN on Friday. “Knowing now that that could’ve been just because he was trying to kind of cover-up for whatever his own indiscretions were or be able to use my name and invoke that defense later on. It’s just gross.”

For Hill and other campaigners, the fight is still far from over.

At the time of writing, 46 states, the District of Columbia, and one territory have revenge porn laws. However, they’re still relatively new, contain many loopholes, and change drastically within each state. Conviction rates also remain very low.

Masinoff told Insider that one way to solve this problem is to make it clear to people that behavior like this is unacceptable – and even deadly. And it starts with not assuming you can share a private image as you wish.

“Most of the response to this problem has been to create sort of new criminal laws to try to punish people for doing it,” Masinoff said. “I understand that that’s sort of the tool that we have right now, but it’s wrong that this is one of the only ways we can tell people that their behavior is bad.”

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‘I’m not going anywhere’: Matt Gaetz defiant in Florida speech after House Ethics Committee opens investigation

Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks to reporters outside a closed-door meeting where Catherine Croft, a State Department adviser on Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019.

  • Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida was defiant in his attempt to remain in office during a Friday speech.
  • Gaetz currently faces investigations by the US Department of Justice and the House Ethics Committee.
  • “I’m built for the battle, and I’m not going anywhere,” he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida on Friday was defiant in his attempt to remain in office, brushing aside the damaging set of developments surrounding a federal sex trafficking investigation that has unfolded in the media over the course of nearly two weeks.

While attending the “Save America Summit,” part of a four-day conference at the Trump National Doral resort in Miami, Gaetz, who was billed as the keynote speaker for the event, said he was here to stay, according to The Daily Beast.

“This past week has been full of encouragement,” he told the group of attendees. “The smears against me range from distortions of my personal life, to wild conspiracy theories. I won’t be intimidated by a lying media, and I won’t be extorted by a former DOJ [Department of Justice] official and the crooks he is working with.”

He added: “The truth will prevail.”

Gaetz has denied that he paid women for sex – including, potentially, an underage girl – blaming the media for amplifying the allegations against him.

“I’m built for the battle, and I’m not going anywhere,” he said.

Women for America First, the group that organized the conference, advertised Gaetz’s appearance by calling him “a fearless leader in DC” who stood up for former President Donald Trump’s “America First Agenda.”

In his speech on Friday, Gaetz, who was one of Trump’s staunchest defenders in Congress, contended that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from the former president.

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But even Gaetz wrapping himself around the Trump legacy could not curtail the swirl of controversies that awaited him outside the resort.

On Friday, the House Ethics Committee announced that they were opening a bipartisan investigation into allegations against Gaetz of sexual misconduct, illicit drug use, and the sharing of nude images on the House floor.

Trump was urged by advisors not to publicly back Gaetz until more was known about the allegations of sex with an underage girl, according to The Daily Beast.

When the former president issued a statement regarding Gaetz this week, he refuted a report that the congressman had asked for a blanket pardon.

“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” Trump said in a statement. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

Many Republicans and conservative media figures have been quiet about Gaetz in the wake of the allegations, especially after a widely panned March appearance on Fox’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that the host himself said was “one of the weirdest interviews” that he’s ever done.

According to The Daily Beast, out of 16 top Trump administration officials contacted by the publication, none would back Gaetz on the record.

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