Justice Dept. Won’t Bring Charges Against Gaetz in Sex-Trafficking Inquiry, Lawyers Say

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has decided not to bring charges against Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, after a lengthy sex-trafficking investigation that imperiled one of President Donald J. Trump’s most ambitious and hard-charging allies in Congress.

In recent weeks, investigators have signaled they were not likely to pursue a criminal case against Mr. Gaetz, people familiar with the matter said, and department officials told his legal team about the decision early Wednesday.

“We have just spoken with the D.O.J. and have been informed that they have concluded their investigation into Congressman Gaetz and allegations related to sex trafficking and obstruction of justice and they have determined not to bring any charges against him,” Mr. Gaetz’s lawyers, Isabelle Kirshner and Marc Mukasey, said in a statement.

In 2020, federal prosecutors began examining whether Mr. Gaetz, 40, broke federal sex-trafficking laws, focusing on his relationships with women recruited online for sex, and whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

Mr. Gaetz later unsuccessfully appealed to the White House for a broad pre-emptive pardon before Mr. Trump left office that might have encompassed the sex trafficking investigation, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The decision not to prosecute Mr. Gaetz came two months after his close associate, Joel Greenberg, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges including sex trafficking after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. The department’s decision was earlier reported by CNN.

Prosecutors in Florida, along with lawyers from the Justice Department’s public integrity division, investigated Mr. Gaetz’s encounters with women who were initially contacted online by Mr. Greenberg, a former tax collector in Seminole County.

In encounters during 2019 and 2020, the women received cash payments after meeting with the congressman and having sex with him, according to people familiar with the encounters. Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg instructed the women to meet at certain times and places, often at hotels around Florida.

In 2021, The New York Times reviewed receipts from Cash App, a mobile payments app, and Apple Pay that revealed payments from Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg to one of the women, and a payment from Mr. Greenberg to a second woman. The women told their friends that the payments were for sex with the two men, two people familiar with the conversations said at the time.

Mr. Gaetz has maintained he did nothing wrong, claiming that the women involved were former girlfriends and denying paying any of them in exchange for sex.

“I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward,” Mr. Gaetz told The Times in 2021. He said he had not had a sexual relationship with a minor and called other accusations of wrongdoing “unequivocally false.”

The investigation into him was opened during the Trump administration and proceeded with the approval of Attorney General William P. Barr.

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