On Friday, the House at last announced a formal ethics inquiry into the actions of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz. In a joint statement from Ethics Committee chair Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida and ranking Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski, the committee says it will investigate whether Gaetz has “engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe…”

Considering that Gaetz is accused of showing videos and photographs of naked women he claimed to have sex with to other member of Congress on the floor of the House, this could be a very brief investigation. That is, should the Republicans that Gaetz graced with these presentations step forward. To date, despite Gaetz’s long public history of talking about “family values” while paying an indicted sex trafficker to procure young women, and running a game in which legislators scored points for sleeping with interns—bonus points for virgins—Republicans have been happy to just lt him carry on. 

As The New York Times reported on Friday, the opening of the ethics investigation also coincided with the resignation of Gaetz’s legislative director, who complained that working for Gaetz was less about writing legislation, and more like working for a tabloid. His departure follows that of Gaetz’s communications director, who resigned last week.

To celebrate all this, Gaetz spoke on Friday night before the same group that sponsored Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 pre-insurgency rally. He told that group that all the charges against him were part of a “wild conspiracy theory.” Then he told them that the election was “stolen,” in a plan that included Black Lives Matter, the coronavirus, and millions of fake ballots.

Gaetz’s speech kicked off the four-day “Save America Summit” hosted by Women for America First,  the same group responsible for the rally that preceded the deadly invasion of the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

In addition to telling the group that he was “a champion of women,” Gaetz praised some of the most important women in his life—including thanking Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for her support. Then Gaetz repeatedly said that all the charges against him were lies and conspiracy theories originating either from the media or the “deep state.” 

As the South Florida Sun-Sentinel noted, many of the women present seemed enthralled with Gaetz, and ready to dismiss the charges against him. “I love him and I do believe what he is saying,” said one 71-year-old attendee. “I believe what the media is accusing him of is fake.”

However, as The New York Times reported, they have the receipts. Gaetz’s friend, former Florida Republican official and 33 times indicted Joel Greenberg, has agreed to a plea deal, one that will most certainly involve testimony concerning Gaetz. Records show that for at least two years, Greenberg worked to secure women for Gaetz through the simple means of giving them “gifts.” Of cash. Receipts from mobile apps used to send cash show payments from Gaetz to Greenberg, from Greenberg to women, and in at least one case directly from Gaetz to the women. Some of those women have already said that those payments were for sex. 

Sex work, like any other form of labor, should not be illegal. But it is. The women involved should be protected by a legal framework that promotes their safety. They’re not. What Gaetz and Greenberg were doing was neither operating a legal, regulated operation in a state like Nevada, and it was not, as Gaetz has said, being “generous” to their “dates.” They were soliciting women for sex through payments that included funding interstate travel, hotels, and direct payments of cash. Illegally.

And there’s another point: Greenberg has already been indicted for sex trafficking of at least one underage girl. Gaetz has been reportedly accused of the same crime. In any case, the age of the women Greenberg was recruiting for Gaetz can be deduced by looking at the memos he wrote while sending them payments using the cash app Venmo. Those memos read: “school,” “school,” and “tuition.”

Against this background, having Gaetz step forward to tell Women for America “when you want something done, ask a woman” has a certain bitter irony. However, when Gaetz was not using his speech to call all his accusers liars, he was promoting the Big Lie of the “stolen” election.

A year out from the election, according to Gaetz, Democrats knew that Trump could not be defeated. So they tried to impeach him, but that didn’t work. They couldn’t late a glove on Trump. “Until Marxists attacked our streets,” said Gaetz. “The Chinese coronavirus attacks our bodies, and fraud attacked the election process itself.” 

However, Gaetz told the group, even this coalition of germ-fortified communists in the U.S. and China was still not enough. “So they ran to the mailbox with millions of ballots swirling around without any true and verifiable connection to actual voters.” 

When you’re charged with sex trafficking underaged girls, promoting an insurrection may actually be a step up. 

Gaetz was, of course, one of the members of Congress who voted to nullify the results of the 2020 election by disputing the electoral votes of states that Trump lost. His actions on Jan. 6 directly supported the insurrection. It shouldn’t be surprising that he’s still promoting a lie that led to multiple deaths and came close to generating a genuine crisis for the nation’s future.

After all, Matt Gaetz could use a good distraction right now. 

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