Ted Lieu Says Matt Gaetz Entitled to Presumption of Innocence, Not Committee Seat

Representative Ted Lieu has again said that Congressman Matt Gaetz should be removed from the House Judiciary Committee immediately while he remains under federal investigation.

Lieu, a Democrat representing California's 33rd congressional district, told MSNBC on Friday that Gaetz had the right to the presumption of innocence but not to retain the committee assignment.

Gaetz is under federal investigation over allegations involving sex trafficking and having sex with a minor. He denies the allegations. The Republican represents Florida's 1st congressional district.

"Like all Americans, Congressman Matt Gaetz is entitled to the presumption of innocence but he is not entitled to sit on the House Judiciary Committee," Lieu said.

"That is an honor and a privilege and this committee has jurisdiction over the Department of Justice, which is the very department that has opened a criminal investigation in which Matt Gaetz is a subject."

"That is a clear conflict of interest and Leader Kevin McCarthy must remove Matt Gaetz from the committee immediately," Lieu said.

Lieu, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee which is chaired by Democratic Representative Jerry Nadler, reiterated his belief that Gaetz' continued membership is a conflict of interest.

"For a party [the GOP] that in the past used to proclaim family values, this seems very antithetical to family values," Lieu said.

Lieu wouldn't say if Gaetz should resign from Congress but he said the allegations are serious. He also pointed to the potential prison sentences Gaetz could receive if he were found guilty.

The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travel across state lines, which would be a potential violation of federal law against sex trafficking, according to The New York Times.

Gaetz has strongly denied the accusations and claimed they are part of a $25 million extortion plot against him and his father, Don Gaetz, involving missing former FBI agent Robert Levinson.

Lieu also called for Gaetz' removal on Friday following reports that Joel Greenberg, who has been referred to as Gaetz' "wingman", wrote to Roger Stone saying that he and Gaetz had had sex with an underage girl. Greenberg was allegedly seeking a pardon during the final days of the Trump administration. Stone is a long-time ally of former President Donald Trump.

"Dear @GOPLeader: Please remove Rep Matt Gaetz from the House Judiciary Committee immediately," Lieu tweeted. "The Committee has jurisdiction over the Department of Justice that is investigating Rep Gaetz, including allegedly for sex crimes with a minor. This is an untenable conflict of interest."

Representative Steve Scalise, the second-ranking Republican in the House, has said his party will "take action" to remove Gaetz from committee assignments if the DOJ files charges against him.

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

Gaetz is also a member of the Armed Services Committee, the Budget Committee and several subcommittees.

Newsweek has asked Representatives Ted Lieu and Matt Gaetz for comment on this article.

Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl) speaks during the "Save America Summit" at the Trump National Doral golf resort on April 09, 2021 in Doral, Florida. Gaetz is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice. Joe Raedle/Getty Images