The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Scandal has been brewing for a Florida congressman. U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is under federal investigation. The central question hinges on whether Mr. Gaetz paid an underage girl for sexual favors, and whether he paid for her to travel with him across state lines, which could constitute trafficking under the federal crime codes.
The Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been looking into the matter since 2020. As of yet, Mr. Gaetz has not been charged with any crimes, and he has denied all allegations of illicit behavior. He asserts that he and his family are being extorted. The FBI is examining Mr. Gaetz’s claims separately.
Like all citizens, the congressman deserves due process protections, which come with an assumption of innocence until proof of guilt emerges.
However, Mr. Gaetz currently sits on the House Armed Services Committee as well as the Judiciary Committee. The former isn’t an issue, but the Judiciary Committee oversees federal law enforcement entities, including those actively investigating Mr. Gaetz.
He should do the right thing and resign this committee position while the investigation is ongoing.
The conflict is obvious. Presidents accused of wrongdoing are investigated by special counsel to avoid the appearance of tampering with evidence or impeding the investigation’s progress. A congressman may not merit a special prosecutor, but Mr. Gaetz should take pains to separate himself from the judiciary process to avoid the risk of even the appearance of conflict.
If he will not, his Republican colleagues should take steps to remove him. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has indicated that Mr. Gaetz would be removed from all committee assignments if charges against him are proven, but he has not said whether the House will remove him during the ongoing proceedings. Members should.
Such a move is not a punishment, and indeed Mr. Gaetz should not be penalized without proof of wrongdoing. However, someone undergoing investigation into his personal affairs should not have a hand at the tiller of the Justice Department during that investigation.
Rumors that Mr. Gaetz is considering resigning his seat amid the potential scandal appear to be incorrect; the congressman has stated publicly that he will not resign. That is his right, but if he wishes to best serve his constituents, he should step away from the Judiciary Committee to avoid whispers of misconduct that impact his credibility and the credibility of the entire system.