A former White House aide told the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) sought a pardon from former President Trump over the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) investigation into sex trafficking allegations against him, The Washington Post reported on Saturday, citing sources familiar with the testimony.
Former Trump aide Johnny McEntee said Gaetz told him he had asked former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for a preemptive pardon, the Post reported. McEntee told the committee that he understood the pardon to be in connection with the DOJ probe.
The Justice Department is investigating allegations that Gaetz paid for sex, paid for women to travel across state lines to have sex and had a sexual relationship with a minor. Gaetz denies the allegations.
The committee previously showed McEntee saying in a videotaped deposition that Gaetz told him he asked Meadows for a pardon during a June hearing.
It also presented testimony from other former Trump aides naming Gaetz as one of several Republican lawmakers who sought pardons from Trump. Gaetz and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) advocated for a “blanket pardon” for lawmakers who participated in a December 2020 meeting where efforts to overturn the election were discussed, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified. When asked by the committee if Gaetz was seeking a pardon, Eric Herschmann, a former Trump White House attorney, responded in a taped deposition that he believed so and that Gaetz’s pardon request was “for any and all things.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a member of the committee, also presented an email from Brooks in which the Alabama congressman requested presidential pardons for himself, Gaetz, and lawmakers who objected to the Electoral College vote for Arizona and Pennsylvania.
However, McEntee’s testimony as reported by the Post is the first to indicate that Gaetz sought a pardon in connection with the Justice Department’s investigation into the sex trafficking allegations, though there has been speculation.
The New York Times reported in April 2021 that Gaetz had sought a blanket pardon from Trump in the last weeks of his presidency, noting this came as the congressman was being investigated by the DOJ for allegedly violating sex trafficking laws. Trump denied the allegations that Gaetz had directly asked for a blanket pardon.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz discussed pardons for many other people publicly and privately at the end of President Donald Trump’s first term,” a spokesperson for Gaetz said in a statement. “As for himself, President Trump addressed this malicious rumor more than a year ago stating, ‘Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon.’ Rep. Gaetz continues to stand by President Trump’s statement.”
The Jan. 6 committee and Trump’s team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.