Representative Matt Gaetz, (R-FL), speaks during a hearing in the Rayburn House office Building on Capitol Hill, in Washington, U.S., July 29, 2020.
Graeme Jennings | Reuters
One of Rep. Matt Gaetz’s former staffers said Monday that FBI agents contacted him last week, shortly after news broke that the Florida Republican was embroiled in a federal sex-trafficking investigation.
Nathan Nelson, Gaetz’s former director of military affairs, said two agents questioned him at his house after they had heard from members of the media that Nelson knew of Gaetz’s alleged involvement in illegal activities. The media tipsters told the FBI that Nelson resigned as a result of that knowledge, the ex-aide said.
“I’m here to state this morning that nothing could be further from the truth,” Nelson said at a press conference in northwest Florida. “Neither I, nor any other member of Congressman Gaetz’s staff had any knowledge of illegal activities.”
Nelson said his departure from Gaetz’s office last fall was not related to the Department of Justice’s probe of allegations against the 38-year-old congressman. The investigation into whether Gaetz trafficked an underage girl began in the final months of former President Donald Trump‘s term, The New York Times reported last Tuesday.
Gaetz, a highly visible Republican lawmaker and outspoken Trump loyalist, has strongly denied the allegations for which he is reportedly being investigated.
Last week, Gaetz said in a statement that he and his family are being threatened in a multimillion-dollar extortion scheme involving a former Justice Department official. Law enforcement officials told NBC News that the DOJ is pursuing a separate probe into Gaetz’s claims of being extorted.
The sex-trafficking investigation involving Gaetz grew out of another case related to his onetime associate Joel Greenberg, a local official in Florida who last summer was indicted on numerous charges, including sex trafficking of a child.
Nelson said at the presser that he had been approached by the federal agents the day after the Times first reported the sex-trafficking probe involving Gaetz.
The former Gaetz aide said he knows nothing specific about the investigation and had never heard of Greenberg prior to last week’s reports. But the “baseless claim” that prompted the FBI to approach him “leaves me further convinced” that the allegations against Gaetz “are likewise fabricated,” Nelson said.
Another Gaetz staffer, communications director Luke Ball, resigned last week.
Nelson worked in Gaetz’s office for more than four years before leaving the role last October, according to his LinkedIn profile. He said Monday that his departure was planned.
Nelson told reporters that he is still “loosely affiliated” with Gaetz’s office as a military advisor “in an unpaid capacity,” but said he hasn’t spoken to Gaetz in “several months.”