In the days since news broke that the Justice Department was investigating whether Gaetz had violated sex trafficking laws, a charge he denies, no Trump aides or family members have tweeted about the Florida congressman. . Nor were almost any of the more prominent or conservative Trump surrogates and Trump-allied media personalities, including Sean Hannity, Dan Bongino, Charlie Kirk, or the president of the American Conservative Union Matt Schlapp, whose annual CPAC conference had recently appeared Gaetz.
The Daily Beast reported Friday night that Trump himself was monitoring the situation, but following the advice of his aides to remain silent about it. And several people familiar with their relationship said Gaetz and Trump haven’t spoken regularly of late, even after the lawmaker offered to resign from Congress to join the former president’s impeachment defense team in February.
Operations inside Trump World say the silence is due to a variety of factors. Among them is the fact that Gaetz has always been regarded as a grenade with the pin already removed. The congressman had a reputation for having a wild personal lifestyle that, according to associates, was at times bordering on recklessness. Some of Gaetz’s own aides regularly sent embarrassing videos of their boss to other Republican agents, according to two people familiar with the videos.
“Anyone who’s spent 10 minutes with the guy would see that he’s an unserious person,” said a former Trump campaign aide.
Neither Gaetz nor his office responded to a request for comment.
As Gaetz has defended himself against the charges, with a television appearance that stunned Fox News host Tucker Carlson and statements denying the underlying charge but admitting that he was “generous as a partner,” that perception has only grown more. firm.
“The reason you haven’t seen people in the MAGA world defending Gaetz is less because he is unpopular, who is in many circles, and more because of the fact that he has done nothing to make people feel comfortable. to defend. “His interview with Tucker was an absolutely embarrassing train wreck,” said a Trump confidant.
Gaetz has friendly ties to some of the former president’s biggest media advocates and members of Mar-a-Lago. The Florida congressman proposed to his fiancee, Ginger Luckey, during a New Years Eve celebration at the Palm Beach club last December that included a long list of guests from MAGA celebrities and Republican donors.
“Congressman @MattGaetz asked and Ginger said ‘yes,'” Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro, one of the network’s leading pro-Trump commentators, wrote in a tweet announcing Gaetz’s engagement at the time.
But the congressman does not enjoy particularly strong relationships among Trump’s senior team. Some Trump confidants saw him as a leaker during the Trump presidency who was as eager to use his association with the 45th president to enhance his own career as he was to help Trump.
At times, his self-promotion produced rolling eyes, including how he managed to position himself as the lead in an HBO documentary about DC during the Trump era. And he irritated others by constantly attacking his own colleagues within the House GOP conference. In late January, for example, Gaetz organized a rally in front of the Wyoming State Capitol, where he encouraged voters to fire Representative Liz Cheney, one of 10 House Republicans who had voted to impeach Trump. to incite an insurrection.
Of the half a dozen legislators Who was quick to release a statement in support of Rep. Jim Jordan when the Ohio Republican was reported to have covered up allegations of sexual abuse on the Ohio State University wrestling team, none have defended Gaetz. But Jordan has. And so has Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Whose foray into conspiracy theories cost her committee assignments earlier this year.
In an opinion piece published Monday, a defiant Gaetz said he would not resign from Congress and compared his own situation to the allegations made against Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose Senate confirmation battle turned into a chaos after being accused of sexually assaulting a former high school acquaintance. In a precisely worded statement, Gaetz denied paying for sex or having sex with an underage woman.
“My lifestyle of yesteryear may be different from how I live now, but it was not and is not illegal,” Gaetz wrote.
But Republican leader Kevin McCarthy called the allegations “serious” and said that if they proved to be merit, Gaetz would be stripped of his assignments on the House Armed Services and Judiciary committees. And even former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned her California seat in late 2019 after becoming the target of revenge porn, said she would not support her friend in Congress after he once came to her defense. . Gaetz had reportedly shown photos of naked women to his colleagues while on the Chamber floor.
“If true, Matt had engaged in the same practice that he defended myself against,” Hill wrote in Vanity Fair. “Sharing intimate images or videos of someone without their consent should be plain and simple.”
The congressman’s forceful denials have been accompanied by a bizarre series of claims that his father was the victim of an extortion plot involving a former Justice Department official earlier this year. In his March 30 appearance on Carlson’s primetime show, Gaetz said that his father, former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, had used a wire during a meeting with one of the people involved in the alleged scheme. of extortion. The Florida Republican also said the FBI was investigating the situation.
“If you just saw our interview with Matt Gaetz, that was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever done,” Carlson told viewers afterward.
Gaetz has not appeared on Fox News since.