- A former staffer for Rep. Matt Gaetz said FBI agents contacted him last week, shortly after news broke that the Florida Republican was embroiled in a federal sex-trafficking investigation.
- Ex-aide Nathan Nelson said two agents questioned him at his house after they had heard from members of the media that Nelson knew of Gaetz's alleged involvement in illegal activities.
- Gaetz in a new op-ed declared that he is "absolutely not resigning" from Congress and "will not be intimidated or extorted" by his political opponents.
One of Rep. Matt Gaetz's former staffers said Monday that FBI agents contacted him last week, shortly after news broke that the Florida Republican was embroiled in a federal sex-trafficking investigation.
Nathan Nelson, Gaetz's former director of military affairs, said two agents questioned him at his house after they had heard from members of the media that Nelson knew of Gaetz's alleged involvement in illegal activities. The media tipsters told the FBI that Nelson resigned as a result of that knowledge, the ex-aide said.
"I'm here to state this morning that nothing could be further from the truth," Nelson said at a press conference in northwest Florida. "Neither I, nor any other member of Congressman Gaetz's staff had any knowledge of illegal activities."
Nelson said his departure from Gaetz's office last fall was not related to the Department of Justice's probe of allegations against the 38-year-old congressman. The investigation into whether Gaetz trafficked an underage girl began in the final months of former President Donald Trump's term, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
In response to CNBC's report on Nelson's remarks, Gaetz slammed the FBI, claiming the agency is "literally running down false media rumors."
"Sound familiar?" Gaetz added. He and other Republicans have in recent years accused government agencies and officials of bias against conservatives. Gaetz in 2019 accused special counsel Robert Mueller, who led the investigation of Russian interference and potential collusion with Trump's campaign in the 2016 election, of trying to "stop Trump." That investigation, which found insufficient evidence to conclude Trump-Russia collusion, has since become a potent symbol for Republicans who feel targeted by government institutions.
The FBI did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.
Meanwhile, Gaetz in a new op-ed declared that he is "absolutely not resigning" from Congress and "will not be intimidated or extorted" by his political opponents.
Gaetz, an outspoken Trump loyalist, has previously denied having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paying for her travels with him, and he remained defiant in the op-ed Monday morning.
"Since I'm taking my turn under the gun, let me address the allegations against me directly. First, I have never, ever paid for sex. And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old," Gaetz wrote in the Washington Examiner.
Last week, Gaetz said in a statement that he and his family are being threatened in a multimillion-dollar extortion scheme involving a former Justice Department official. Law enforcement officials told NBC News that the DOJ is pursuing a separate probe into Gaetz's claims of being extorted.
The sex-trafficking investigation involving Gaetz grew out of another case related to his onetime associate, Joel Greenberg, a local official in Florida who last summer was indicted on numerous charges, including sex trafficking of a child.
Nelson said at the press conference that he had been approached by the federal agents the day after the Times' first report on alleged sex trafficking.
The former Gaetz aide said he knows nothing specific about the investigation and had never heard of Greenberg prior to last week's reports. But the "baseless claim" that prompted the FBI to approach him "leaves me further convinced" that the allegations against Gaetz "are likewise fabricated," Nelson said.
Another Gaetz staffer, communications director Luke Ball, resigned last week.
Nelson worked in Gaetz's office for more than four years before leaving last October, according to his LinkedIn profile. He said Monday that his departure was planned.
Nelson told reporters he is still "loosely affiliated" with Gaetz's office as a military advisor "in an unpaid capacity," but said he hasn't spoken to Gaetz in "several months."
Gaetz's office had arranged Nelson's press conference.