As then-President Trump's term wound down, Matt Gaetz, one of Trump's staunchest allies, privately asked for a blanket pre-emptive pardon, two sources tell the New York Times. The Florida congressman also allegedly asked the White House for the same thing for some of his allies in Congress, though it's not clear who. The pardons would have shielded them from any crimes they may have committed. At the time, Gaetz was already under investigation over whether he violated sex trafficking laws and paid an underage girl for sex, but it's not clear whether either Gaetz or the White House was aware of the Justice Department probe. As for Gaetz's pardon request, it was rejected due to a lack of desire to set such a precedent, the sources say. Since the probe was launched, Politico notes, Gaetz has become "persona non grata" in pro-Trump circles.
It's not clear whether Gaetz discussed his pardon request directly with Trump, but aides did tell the then-president, who pardoned dozens in the last months of his term. Gaetz's spokesperson says the whole story revolves around Gaetz's public call, made on Fox News after Trump lost the election, for Trump to pardon "‘everyone," and says the congressman never privately asked for a specific pardon for himself related to the Justice Department inquiry. Women for America First, a pro-Trump organization, is apparently undaunted by the allegations against Gaetz, which he has denied: It invited the congressman to speak at its Friday summit, the Week reports. Meanwhile Bob Kent, one of the people Gaetz claims tried to extort him over the DoJ probe, tells Fox News there was no shakedown, he just thought Gaetz could benefit from some "good publicity" if his family gave Kent the $25 million he asked for to help find missing FBI agent Robert Levinson. (Read more Matt Gaetz stories.)