Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) allegedly sought a blanket pardon during President Donald Trump’s last days in office. Gaetz allegedly asked the then-president to issue a preemptive pardon for himself and GOP allies two sources told the New York Times. At the same time, the Justice Department under direction of William Barr began investigating Gaetz’s potential connection to sex trafficking and a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

Gaetz did not tell Trump or White House legal council that he was under investigation by the Justice Department, so the White House viewed Gaetz’s appeal as a preemptive pardon. The two sources say White House counsel advised against the pardon, as it would set a dangerous precedent.

Trump released a statement Wednesday saying, “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon. It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

Gaetz reaffirmed his denial of the allegations in a recent op-ed to the Washington Examiner saying, “First, I have never, ever paid for sex. And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old.”

A Gaetz spokesperson then denounced his request for a blanker pardon as a “conflated” story saying, “Entry-level political operatives have conflated a pardon call from Representative Gaetz — where he called for President Trump to pardon ‘everyone from himself, to his administration, to Joe Exotic’ — with these false and increasingly bizarre, partisan allegations against him. Those comments have been on the record for some time, and President Trump even retweeted the congressman, who tweeted them out himself.”

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