At Trump National Doral, Rep. Matt Gaetz Vows to Fight, Tries to Stay on Offensive Amid Scandal

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Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz was defiant at a Women for America First event at Trump National Doral Friday night.

The U.S. House Ethics Committee announced earlier in the day its staff launched an investigation into whether Rep. Gaetz violated house policy when it comes to bribes, gifts, and gratuity.

Gaetz has also been accused of being connected to a federal investigation into former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, who's also a longtime friend of Gaetz.

Prosecutors are examining whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they could not discuss details publicly.

Greenberg entered a not guilty plea Friday through his attorney to a variety of charges ranging from child sex trafficking to fraud. A judge has set a May 15 deadline for Greenberg to reach a plea deal.

NBC News has confirmed investigators are looking into whether Gaetz paid women to travel to the Bahamas for sex. 

"I have not yet begun to fight," Rep. Gaetz said. "I'm built for the battle and I'm not going anywhere." 

Federal investigators hit Greenberg with 33 charges in court including wire fraud and sex trafficking of a minor. In a hearing on Thursday, Greenberg's lawyer told the judge they're desire to strike a plea deal. 

Gaetz Friday framed these accusations as an attack on his "America First" supporters. 

"They're not really coming for me, they're coming for you. I'm just in the way," said Gaetz.

The Ethics Committee conducts its work in secret and usually issues a final report on what it finds, often many months later. Punishment for ethics violations is up to the House and can include censure, fines and even expulsion from Congress.

Separately Friday, a spokesperson for Gaetz said attorneys Marc Mukasey and Isabelle Kirshner will lead his legal team.

“Matt has always been a fighter. A fighter for his constituents, a fighter for the country, and a fighter for the Constitution. He’s going to fight back against the unfounded allegations against him,” the statement said, adding that the lawyers “will take the fight to those trying to smear his name with falsehoods.”

This is a developing story and will be updated. Please check back for more updates.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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