Matt Gaetz asked Trump for a preemptive pardon before he left office, report claims

Representative Matt Gaetz, who is a subject in a federal probe in a sex trafficking case, reportedly sought a blanket preemptive pardon for himself and congressional allies during the final weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Citing two sources, the New York Times reported on Tuesday that Mr Gaetz asked the Trump administration to grant him immunity over any crimes for which he might later be convicted .

The requests are said to have come around the same time as the Justice Department began investigating into whether Mr Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her travel, potentially violating sex trafficking laws.

Mr Gaetz has denied the allegations. It is unclear at the moment if the Florida politician was aware of the federal inquiry at the time when he sought the pardon.

His request was viewed as a non-starter at the time as the lawyers and officials believed that it could set a bad precedent and therefore was never granted.

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Although Mr Trump was informed about the request from Mr Gaetz, it is also unclear if he spoke directly with the then-president about it, the Times reported. It said sources had speculated whether Mr Gaetz sought a group pardon in order to obscure his own potential criminal exposure.

A spokesperson for Mr Gaetz did not deny that the request for pardons was made, but rejected any suggestion that it was related to the Justice Department’s enquiry.

“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,” the spokesperson told the Times.

“Those comments have been on the record for some time, and President Trump even retweeted the congressman, who tweeted them out himself.”

The congressman denied last week that he sought a pardon from Mr Trump in the matter. “The recent false allegations against me are not something I’ve ever discussed with Trump, pardons or otherwise,” he had earlier told Politico.

He told the magazine on Tuesday that he had not read the Times article and added that he met Mr Trump along with other lawmakers to discuss a broader pardon strategy around the 6 January insurrection at the Capitol. In that exchange, he advised the then-president to pardon himself, his family, administration officials and others who supported Mr Trump’s claims of electoral fraud.

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