Steve Scalise Affirms Matt Gaetz Will Be Removed From Committees if DOJ Files Charges

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisianasaid that House Republicans will "take action" if the Department of Justice files charges against fellow GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz while he is currently under investigation for allegations made against him involving sex trafficking and sex with a minor at news conference held by House Republican leaders on Wednesday.

Scalise added that historically, lawmakers who faced charges have been removed from their committee assignments immediately as a precedent. This echoed the House GOP's internal rules that lawmakers indicted for felonies and sentenced to at least two years in prison must resign from their committees, according to the Associated Press.

"It's hard to speculate on rumors, but if something really formal happened from Justice, we would of course react and take action," Scalise told reporters.

He added that he has not spoken with Gaetz to hear his explanation behind the allegations but that he imagines he will speak with him this week.

"It's serious things alleged. Obviously, we will want to get the facts," Scalise said.

Gaetz has consistently denied the allegations made against him, according to the Associated Press.

Newsweek reached out to Scalise for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

Rep. Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference being held in the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Begun in 1974, CPAC brings together conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders to discuss issues important to them. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

The remarks by Scalise made him the latest of many congressional Republicans who have opted against springing to the defense of the Florida Republican.

Gaetz is a frequent face on conservative television networks and an ardent ally of former President Donald Trump. He serves on the Armed Services and Judiciary committees, and critics have said he should immediately be removed from the Judiciary panel because it oversees the Justice Department.

Gaetz did not attend a weekly closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Wednesday, Scalise said. Asked for comment Tuesday after returning to Washington for a vote after Congress' two-week Easter recess, Gaetz referred reporters to a column he wrote last week saying he had not paid for sex and accusing his critics of being corrupt.

Florida's two Republican senators have also steered clear of voicing support for Gaetz. Most Republicans have taken neutral stances or said nothing about the three-term House lawmaker.

"Sure, and I don't think anyone's saying they're not," Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday when a reporter suggested the allegations are serious. "And he's pretty firm in his denial, so we'll have to wait and see how it plays out." Rubio said he's not spoken with Gaetz since news of the investigation emerged late last month.

On Monday, Sen. Rick Scott said Gaetz faces "pretty serious allegations" but didn't say what should happen to him. "I think we've got to get all the facts," Scott said.

Both senators are considered potential 2024 presidential hopefuls.

Few GOP lawmakers have voiced support for Gaetz, who has said he will not resign. Trump issued a brief statement last week that said Gaetz "has totally denied the accusations against him."

Gaetz is also the focus of a bipartisan investigation by the House Ethics Committee of accusations including sexual misconduct, illegal drug use, spending campaign funds for personal use and accepting a bribe or impermissible gift. The committee has provided no additional detail.

Gaetz, 38, became engaged on New Year's Eve at Trump's Mar-a-Lago compound in Florida.

On Tuesday, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said a local GOP organization should cancel plans for Gaetz to be keynote speaker at a fundraising dinner in August and said he would not attend if Gaetz appeared.

On Sunday, No. 3 House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming called the accusations against Gaetz "sickening" but didn't suggest he should resign. Gaetz has called for Cheney's defeat after she was among 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump's House impeachment in January.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois last week became the first GOP member of Congress to say Gaetz should surrender his House seat, tweeting, "Matt Gaetz needs to resign." Kinzinger, a frequent Trump critic, also voted to impeach Trump in January on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Gaetz and other Florida Republicans and political allies are being examined as part of a broad public corruption inquiry by federal investigators that began months ago, people familiar with the probe have said.

Prosecutors are said to be examining whether Gaetz and Joel Greenberg, a former county tax official, paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex.

One person said investigators were looking at trips Gaetz and other men took and whether women were paid or received gifts to have sex with them or later received government jobs.

It was also revealed in a Florida court last week that Greenberg was working toward a plea deal, which might mean he would provide prosecutors with information about the congressman. Greenberg pleaded not guilty to charges, including child sex trafficking and fraud.