The feds are reportedly probing whether a trip Rep. Matt Gaetz allegedly took to the Bahamas violated sex trafficking laws.
The embattled Florida Republican went on the Caribbean trip in late 2018 or early 2019 with Dr. Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and cannabis businessman who allegedly paid for travel expenses, accommodations and women who may have been paid for sex, multiple sources told CBS News.
The feds are seeking to determine whether the escorts were trafficked across state or international lines for the purpose of sex with the 38-year-old congressman, who faces a slew of allegations, including paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl.
Gaetz, who has not been charged with any crime, has denied any allegations of sexual misconduct and any wrongdoing.
“Traveling across state lines is what creates a federal hook for a prosecution,” Arlo Devlin-Brown, a former prosecutor and partner at Covington & Burling, said on the “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell.”
“It doesn’t matter that [Gaetz] personally paid them as long as he knows someone is doing that,” he added.
The Justice Department declined to comment to CBS News.
On Wednesday, Pirozollo– listed as the director of sports medicine and trauma at Orlando Hand Surgery Associates — declined to comment to the network outside his office about his relationship with Gaetz and whether he paid for escorts for the pol.
In a statement to CBS News, a Gaetz’s rep said: “Rep. Gaetz has never paid for sex, nor has he had sex with an underage girl. What began with blaring headlines about ‘sex trafficking’ has now turned into a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults.
“Yesterday, we even learned of some nonsense ‘pardon’ story that turned out to be false, and today it’s just more euphemism. It’s interesting to watch the Washington wheels grinding so hard every time one of their falsehoods gets knocked down,” the spokesperson said.
Sources told CBS News that federal investigators also want to know if Gaetz accepted paid escorts in exchange for political access or legislative favors.
Pirozzolo, who holds a doctorate of osteopathic medicine from Nova Southeastern University in Florida, told Ganjapreneur.com during a July 2018 podcast that Gaetz was working to introduce federal legislation that would boost medical research of marijuana, according to the report.
“In fact, Congressman Matt Gaetz is in the process of working on legislation up in Washington, DC, that will help facilitate research on the nationwide level. And we should see a lot of good benefit from them,” he said.
“We’ve got congressmen that are actually dealing with this federal legislation right now,” Pirozzolo added.
In April that year and again in January 2019, Gaetz introduced the Medical Cannabis Research Act but it never came to a vote, CBS News reported.
Gaetz was a speaker at two conferences of the Medical Marijuana Physicians Association, of which Pirozzolo is the co-founder and chairman, according to the news outlet.
Federal Election Commission records reviewed by the network show that the doctor made two separate donations of $1,000 each to Gaetz’s campaign arm, “Friends of Matt Gaetz,” in March 2016 and May 2017.
The latest development in Gaetz’s mounting legal problems comes as former President Donald Trump denied a report that claimed the congressman sought a blanket pardon from his White House — for himself and unidentified congressional allies.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” the 45th commander-in-chief said in an emailed statement. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”
In an op-ed in the Washington Examiner on Monday, Gaetz said he was “absolutely not resigning” as he blamed the scandal on “political opponents.”