The House Ethics Committee announced Friday it has launched an investigation into alleged misconduct by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz following a recent flurry of accusations against the Florida congressman, including illegal drug use and sexual misconduct.
"The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Matt Gaetz may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct," the panel's chairman, Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and ranking member, Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., said in a joint written statement.
The statement noted that the existence of the investigation "does not indicate that any violation has occurred."
The news comes as Joel Greenberg, an associate of Gaetz's and a former local Florida official, is expected to enter a plea deal, Greenberg's attorney said in court this week. Greenberg was indicted on charges including sex trafficking of a child. It's unclear what kind of information he may share about Gaetz.
The New York Times first reported that the Department of Justice is investigating Gaetz over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, which could violate federal sex trafficking laws.
Gaetz, 38, confirmed he is under investigation by the Justice Department but denied the allegations. The third-term Republican claims he and his family are victims of an extortion attempt by a former department official.
Speaking at a Women for America First event Friday in Florida, Gaetz called the accusations "smears against me" and "wild conspiracy theories."
"I'm not going anywhere," he said.
Congressional Republicans have largely remained silent over the allegations against Gaetz, a staunch ally and defender of former President Donald Trump's.
On Thursday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois became the first Republican to call on his colleague to resign.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has said if the "serious" allegations are true, Gaetz would be removed from his committee assignments.
"But right now, Matt Gaetz says it is not true and we don't have any information, so let's get all the information," he said last week.
There have not been any formal announcements about Gaetz from the Justice Department.
Investigations from the House Ethics Committee typically stretch out for months — sometimes years — and the committee defers any action when a federal investigation is underway. But the public statement of the committee action now, which comes ahead of any official statement from the Justice Department, departs from its normal practice.
The committee also announced it has begun an investigation into Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., citing allegations of sexual misconduct. Reed has said he will not seek election to public office in 2022.