A New York Times columnist attributed the FBI investigation into Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz to “political bias” in a Monday column.
Columnist Bret Stephens wrote that the FBI is losing public trust due to what he described as its increasingly partisan activities, including the Russian collusion probe and the handling of former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails. He also wrote that the investigation into Gaetz, which seeks to determine whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, is a “disgrace of the ages.”
“The investigation of Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, which looks like it’s about to fall apart, is an FBI disgrace of the ages. It should force heads to roll,” Stephens wrote. “And Congress needs to appoint a Church-style committee or commission to reform the bureau. After … James Comey’s disastrous interventions with Hillary Clinton’s emails, and the bureau misrepresenting the facts to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as part of its investigation of Trump and Russia, something dramatic has to change to save the F.B.I. from continuing to lose public trust.”
— Byron York (@ByronYork) September 26, 2022
Stephens then accused the FBI of unfairly accusing the Florida lawmaker of the most “heinous behavior imaginable” over his politics.
“I’m upset by a longstanding pattern of incompetence tinged by what feels like political bias,” he wrote. “I don’t like Gaetz’s politics or persona any more than you do. But what we seem to have here is a high-profile politician being convicted in the court of public opinion of some of the most heinous behavior imaginable — trafficking a minor for sex — until the Justice Department realizes two years late that its case has fallen apart. We have a presumption of innocence in this country because we tend to err the most when we assume the worst about the people we like the least.” (RELATED: Florida Man Charged In $25 Million Extortion Scheme That Promised A Presidential Pardon For Matt Gaetz)
The investigation originated from a corruption probe into Seminole County, Florida, tax collector Joel Greenberg, a former political ally of Gaetz. Greenberg pleaded guilty in May 2021 to sex trafficking a minor, identity theft and fraud. He alleged that the Florida representative paid him through Venmo for sexual liaisons with women, one of whom was just 17 years old.
Gaetz denied any wrongdoing and alleged that he and his family were targets of a $25 million extortion scheme in March 2021. He also alleged that the scheme involved a former Department of Justice (DOJ) official named David McKee and that existing recordings reportedly made at the FBI and DOJ’s request would prove McKee’s involvement and that the allegations against him are false.
Prosecutors at the DOJ reportedly believe Gaetz would not be convicted at trial due to witness credibility errors.