Representative Matt Gaetz is retaining two prominent New York attorneys as he faces a Justice Department investigation into sex trafficking allegations involving underage girls.

FILE PHOTO: Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-FL, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington on December 11, 2019.
FILE PHOTO: Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-FL, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington on December 11, 2019. (Reuters Archive)

The House Ethics Committee has opened an investigation of Rep. Matt Gaetz, citing reports of sexual and other misconduct by the Florida Republican.

The committee said in a statement on Friday that it has begun the investigation and will gather additional information about the allegations.

"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," said Chairman Rep. Ted Deutsch, D-Fla., and ranking Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana.

The deepening of the scrutiny of the congressman comes as Gaetz has retained two prominent New York attorneys as he faces a Justice Department investigation into sex trafficking allegations involving underage girls.

Marc Mukasey and Isabelle Kirshner will lead the Florida Republican's legal team, a Gaetz spokesperson said in a statement Friday.

“Matt has always been a fighter. A fighter for his constituents, a fighter for the country, and a fighter for the Constitution. He’s going to fight back against the unfounded allegations against him," the statement said, adding that the lawyers "will take the fight to those trying to smear his name with falsehoods.”

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Gaetz denies allegations

Gaetz has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing. He has said he plans to keep his seat.

But a potentially ominous sign occurred in a Florida court on Thursday when it was revealed that a Gaetz associate, Joel Greenberg, a former county tax collector, is working toward a plea deal.

Such a move could potentially open the door for Greenberg's cooperation against Gaetz.

Prosecutors are examining whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they could not discuss details publicly. 

Greenberg entered a not guilty plea on Friday through his attorney to a variety of charges ranging from child sex trafficking to fraud. A judge has set a May 15 deadline for Greenberg to reach a plea deal.

Mukasey is a former federal prosecutor in New York and is the son of Michael Mukasey, a former federal judge who served as attorney general in President George W.

Bush's administration. He has represented former President Donald Trump's family business, the Trump Organization, in tax-related investigations in New York, and defended Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL whose war crimes case caught Trump’s attention. Gallagher was acquitted of killing a wounded war prisoner in Iraq.

He also represented the CEO of a social media company during special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

Kirshner represented former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned his position after being accused of physically assaulting women.

No charges were filed against Schneiderman after an investigation by a special prosecutor. Kirshner’s law firm has represented several lawyers accused of criminal wrongdoing.

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Source: AP