Matt Gaetz 'Must' Be Removed From Committee After Pardon Report: Ted Lieu

Calls for Representative Matt Gaetz's removal from a key committee position have begun after it was reported that the Republican Florida congressman sought a pre-emptive pardon from former President Donald Trump.

The news first broke on Saturday from The Washington Post. According to the report, Gaetz allegedly told former White House aide Johnny McEntee that he had asked chief of staff Mark Meadows for a pre-emptive pardon from Trump due to an investigation against him. When investigators pressed further, McEntee said that the investigation in question was probably the Department of Justice's (DOJ) probe into allegations that the congressman had violated sex trafficking laws.

In addition to reigniting the conversation about the accusations against Gaetz, the report also led Democratic Representative Ted Lieu of California to call for his removal from a major Judiciary Committee seat.

"GOP Rep Matt Gaetz is entitled to the presumption of innocence," Lieu tweeted. "He is not entitled to sit on the Judiciary Committee that has oversight over the Department of Justice that is investigating him for sex crimes. A conflict of interest. [House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy] must remove him from the Committee."

The DOJ opened its investigation into Gaetz in late 2020, with the approval of Trump-appointed Attorney General William Barr. The investigation is about allegations that Gaetz paid for sex, engaged in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and transporting her across state lines, the latter of which brought the investigation into the realm of sex trafficking. Gaetz has denied the allegations and accused the DOJ of conspiring against him.

Gaetz became a target of the DOJ probe as an extension of an investigation into his colleague, former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg. Greenberg pleaded guilty to sex trafficking charges last May, with his sentencing being delayed multiple times to this coming December.

matt gaetz ted lieu committee
Above, Representative Matt Gaetz attends a meeting of congressional Republicans in 2020. A fellow congressman, Ted Lieu, has called for Gaetz to be removed from a major committee seat over allegations that he sought preemptive pardon over a DOJ probe into his conduct. Anna Moneymaker/Pool/Getty Images

In a statement to the Post, a spokesperson for Gaetz denied that the congressman ever sought a pardon for himself, saying that he discussed pardons for other individuals during the final months of Trump's presidency.

"Congressman Matt Gaetz discussed pardons for many other people publicly and privately at the end of President Donald Trump's first term," the spokesperson told the newspaper. "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."

Newsweek reached out to Gaetz's office for comment.