Months ago, the media publicized an FBI investigation involving Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), alleging he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, whom he allegedly paid to travel with him. Gaetz denied the allegations and said they were part of an extortion plot against him and his family that the FBI had been working on with them.
It has been five months since the media vociferously covered the Gaetz investigation, based on anonymous leaks to The New York Times. As I wrote at the time, publicizing an investigation like this seeks to destroy the accused in the court of public opinion without needing evidence to back up those assertions. Some of the allegations against Gaetz should have been easy to corroborate, like flight details, yet the absence of such information led some to believe the allegations were politically motivated.
It is still possible that Gaetz will be indicted for a crime.
Glenn Greenwald on Friday mentioned the lack of movement in the Gaetz investigation, adding that “leaking the existence of investigations without charges is a crime for a reason: destroys reputations with no chance of defense.”
“This was a favorite tactic of corrupt Brazilian prosecutors: they’d leak investigations and accusations to corporate media outlets, which would trumpet them, but never charge the person, thus destroying their enemies’ reputations with no need to ever prove the case in court,” Greenwald added.
This was a favorite tactic of corrupt Brazilian prosecutors: they’d leak investigations and accusations to corporate media outlets, which would trumpet them, but never charge the person, thus destroying their enemies’ reputations with no need to ever prove the case in court.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 3, 2021
Even though nothing has been substantiated in the investigation that involves Gaetz — who was not the target of the investigation but part of it because of a political ally — the congressman’s claims of extortion have been corroborated, as a man was just charged in connection with the plot.
Politico reported that 62-year-old Stephen Alford was indicted for wire fraud “and destruction of property subject to a seizure warrant.”
The indictment alleges that in March and April of this year, Alford attempted to get Gaetz’s wealthy father, Don, to pay the large sum as part of a complex deal dubbed “Project Homecoming.” The scheme Alford promoted would also have funded a private effort to rescue a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007, Robert Levinson. U.S. officials said last year they believe Levinson was arrested and later died in Iranian custody, but Iran has publicly denied arresting Levinson. His body has never been found.
According to the indictment, Alford said he could “guarantee” that one of Don Gaetz’s family members would not go to prison if the money Alford demanded was paid. Don Gaetz told POLITICO in March that he wore a wire at the FBI’s request. Many of the quotes and details in the indictment appear to come from the discussions he recorded.
Harlan Hill, Gaetz’s spokesperson, said in a statement to Politico that the “release of the Alford tapes will further exculpate Rep. Gaetz and implicate those with long-standing links to the federal government.”
As Politico noted, the allegations of sexual misconduct against Gaetz came from a former friend and political ally, Joel Greenberg, who pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and falsely claiming a political opponent was a pedophile, as well as other crimes. Greenberg is attempting to get a lighter sentence by cooperating in the investigation against Gaetz.