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By Terrance Turner
May 4, 2021
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) was caught on a hot mic today badmouthing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), ABC News said today. ABC played audio of the remarks on “World News Tonight”. According to Axios, the remarks were made on Fox News (predictably).
“I think she’s got real problems,” McCarthy told Steve Doocy off-air ahead of a live “Fox and Friends” interview. “I’ve had it with her. You know, I’ve lost confidence. … Well, someone just has to bring a motion, but I assume that will probably take place.”
The remarks set up what will likely be a procedural vote to remove Cheney from office. Cheney, the NO. 3 Republican in the House, committed the apparently cardinal sin of going against Donald Trump. Cheney voted to convict Donald Trump during his impeachment trial in January. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney said in a statement at the time.
For her temerity, Cheney was censured by the Wyoming Republican Party, who even asked her to resign. Then she faced a secret vote that tried to oust her from power. Just 61 Republicans voted to remove Cheney from her post, while 145 voted for her to stay in a vote by secret ballot. Cheney survived, though she has faced consistent criticism from her colleagues.
But Cheney won’t back down. On Feb. 24, McCarthy defended Trump’s decision to speak at CPAC. When Cheney was asked a similar question, she doubled down: “I’ve been clear in my views about President Trump and the extent to which following Jan. 6 I don’t believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country,” Cheney said, as McCarthy closed his eyes in apparent frustration.
McCarthy is clearly frustrated enough with Cheney to threaten to remove her. But he doesn’t have that same urgency with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), who remains on the House Judiciary Committee despite a growing cloud of sex trafficking allegations. (Gaetz had the audacity to fly to Wyoming and blast Cheney in January, against McCarthy’s warning that Republicans not attack each other.)
On March 30, a New York Times story revealed that Mr. Gaetz is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with the girl and paid for her to travel to him. If true, Gaetz has violated several federal trafficking laws, including the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting a minor across state lines for sex or other “immoral purposes”.
The findings are part of a larger investigation into Mr. Gaetz’s associate Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Florida. Federal authorities seized Greenberg’s phone and laptop, finding evidence of fake ID cards for him and a teenage girl. Mr. Greenberg was indicted last summer on a varity of charges, including sex trafficking.
Gaetz vehemently denied the charges, claiming that he and his family were the victims of an extortion plot. He further defended himself in an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson. “It is a horrible allegation, and it is false,” Gaetz insisted. “Providing for flights and for hotel rooms for people that you’re dating is not a crime.”
Days later, CNN quoted multiple sources who say Gaetz allegedly showed off photos and videos of nude women whom he said he had slept with — and on the House floor. One video showed a naked woman with a hula hoop. “It was a point of pride,” one source said. Then the Times has learned that cash payments are involved. The Hill confirms: “Receipts on mobile payments apps reviewed by the Times show money from Gaetz and Greenberg was sent to one of the women, who told friends it was for having sex with both men.”
Then, in April, came a lurid report in The Daily Beast. “In two late-night Venmo transactions in May 2018, Rep. Matt Gaetz sent his friend, the accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, $900. The next morning, over the course of eight minutes, Greenberg used the same app to send three young women varying sums of money,” write reporters Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger. “In total, the transactions amounted to $900.”
On April 30, 2021, The Daily Beast obtained a letter from Greenberg in which he confesses that both he and Gaetz paid for sex with an underage girl. “On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,” Greenberg writes in the letter.
“From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18. I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman.”
Greenberg admitted that both he and Gaetz had sex with a girl that they believed was 19. (She was 17 at the time.) Greenberg says he learned the girl was underage “from an anonymous tip” on Sept. 4, 2017. He promptly notified Gaetz. “Immediately I called the congressman and warned him to stay clear of this person and informed him she was underage,” Greenberg wrote. “He was equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation.”
Despite all this sordid drama, Gaetz has not resigned and not been removed from any committees. McCarthy has not moved to strip Gaetz of committee assignments and has been all but mute on the cascade of allegations against him.