30.09.2022

Second staffer quits as pressure mounts on Republican congressman

A second staff member has resigned from Republican Matt Gaetz’s office, as pressure grows on the congressman following an investigation into sex trafficking allegations against the Florida representative.

Devin Murphy, the legislative director for Mr Gaetz’s office, resigned from his post on Thursday, in a move that was first reported by The New York Times.

A source close to Mr Murphy told CNN that he did not leave the job specifically because of the allegations levelled at Mr Gaetz, but did so as the “media circus” surrounding him made it difficult to accomplish “meaningful congressional work.”

Mr Gaetz’s former communications director Luke Ball quit his role in the office last week after the allegations and the investigation was revealed.

A statement from Mr Gaetz’s congressional office last week said that “the Office of Congressman Matt Gaetz and Luke Ball have agreed that it would be best to part ways. We thank him for his time in our office, and we wish him the best moving forward.”

Mr Gaetz is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) over a relationship he allegedly had with a 17-year-old girl, including accusations that he violated federal sex trafficking laws by allegedly paying for the girl to travel with him.

The investigation into the congressman, a close ally of former President Donald Trump, is reportedly part of a larger probe into Joel Greenberg, a Florida official who was indicted last summer on child sex-trafficking charges.

Mr Greenberg faces 14 charges, including allegations of stalking a political opponent, using a state database to create fake IDs, and sex trafficking a minor. He faces a trial in June.

Mr Gaetz, who has not been charged with any crimes, has denied the allegations. He says that it is part of an extortion plot to defraud $25m (£18.1m) from his family.

In a column published in theWashington Examiner on Monday, Mr Gaetz said that the allegations were attempting to sensationalise his sex life, as he once again denied the claims.

“First, I have never, ever paid for sex. And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old,” he said. “My lifestyle of yesteryear may be different from how I live now, but it was not and is not illegal,” Mr Gaetz added.

Pressure has been growing against the Florida congressman over the last few days, and representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois became the first Republican to call for his resignation on Thursday, writing in a short tweet: “Matt Gaetz needs to resign.”

While Democratic representative Ted Lieu has called for Mr Gaetz to be taken off the House Judiciary Committee while he is investigated over the allegations.

Although two employees have left his office, Mr Gaetz received support from eight female staff members on Thursday, which the congressman publicised in a Twitter thread.

The women wrote in the statement that “at no time has any one of us experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect. No hint of impropriety. No ounce of untruthfulness.”

While their full-throated support “uniformly” rejected the claims as false, the joint-statement remained anonymous beyond the collective signature of “we, the women of Congressman Matt Gaetz’s office”.

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