The prospect of Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz being hoisted by his own “family values” petard is certainly enticing. And when that scandal comes complete with ABC News reporting that Gaetz was a member of a “group of young male lawmakers” who turned scoring sex with “interns, staffers or other female colleagues” into a game, and The New York Times is reporting that Gaetz continued soliciting women for paid sex well after he announced his engagement, all the elements are certainly there for for an atomic wedgie level of hoist.
However, the growing scandal around Gaetz is not something that took place in a vacuum. In addition to Gaetz and Florida Republican Joel Greenberg, there’s at least one other unnamed Republican official involved in this sex trafficking ring. More importantly, there are a lot more unnamed people involved—like the women who Gaetz, Greenberg, and associates paid to travel across states for the purposes of having sex. At least one of these women was reportedly under the age of 18. There may be more.
As the story expands, so does the possibility that Gaetz was involved in repeated acts that were both more serious, and more extensive, than early reporting suggested. That includes new information that indicates that Gaetz may have been directly involved in providing false IDs to the underage targets of his sex trafficking organization.
New reporting from The Daily Beast shows that the relationship between Gaetz and Greenberg extended beyond the 2019-2020 time frame originally reported elsewhere. That’s because a tip to the FBI shows Gaetz accompanied Greenberg on a late-night trip to his office in 2018 that triggered a security alarm. As it turns out, the FBI was already investigating Greenberg for something he was doing in that office: making fake IDs.
Gaetz has denied having sex with a 17-year-old, calling it “verifiably false.” However, the connection to an operation generating fake IDs certainly extends the possibility that not only did Gaetz knowingly recruit underaged girls for sex, but that this might not be a one-time incident.
Compounding this possibility is one of the strangest factors in an already very strange story: Matt Gaetz’s 19-year-old “son.”
In June of 2020, Gaetz posted a bizarre tweet introducing 19-year-old Nestor Galban as “my son” who lived with him. “As you can imagine, I was triggered when (to make an absurd debate point) a fellow congressman diminished the contributions of Republicans because we don’t raise non-white kids,” Gaetz wrote. “Well, I have.”
Gaetz told People Magazine that he had informally adopted Cuban-born Nestor Galban when the boy was 12 and Gaetz, then a Florida state legislator, was dating Nestor’s older sister. After the relationship with the sister ended, the then 13-year-old Galban moved in with Gaetz. Galban’s biological father lives in Miami, and Galban appears to have lived with his father for some of the time Gaetz says he was “raising” his “son.” However, Galban reportedly graduated high school in 2020, meaning that the time that Galban was in high school overlapped with the period in which Gaetz was not only under investigation for soliciting sex from underage girls, but connected to Greenberg’s fake ID operation.
That, at the very least, raises concerns that Gaetz’s connection to Galban might have been less about parenting and more about access. Having a teenage boy in the home certainly might serve as both a conduit, and an excuse, for why there might also be teenage girls.
Greenberg is now facing an astonishing 33-count indictment. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, those charges include bribery, theft, stalking a political opponent, using a state database to create fake IDs, and sex-trafficking involving a minor. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Greenberg “flaunted his close ties” to Gaetz, Donald Trump, and Roger Stone. Stone also made an appearance in the Sun Sentinel this week, claiming that Gaetz was the victim of “a smear.”
But there may be very good reasons that the recently pardoned Stone is anxious to see this scandal go away.
Gaetz’s mention of Greenberg as a “Second Amendment champion” comes because Greenberg insisted that his deputy tax collectors wear guns at the office. Greenberg also used his own gun, and his state ID as a tax collector, to stop a car under the pretense of being the police.
This is scandal that started out ugly and is getting worse by the hour. The long-standing connection to Greenberg and the late-night office visit suggests that Gaetz was aware of, if not involved in, the scheme to create fake IDs. Multiple sources have reported that Gaetz is under investigation for paying for minors to engage in interstate travel for the purposes of sex. That “game” that Gaetz was reportedly playing with other Republican congressmen involved “extra points” for sleeping with virgins. And at the same time all this was happening, Gaetz had a teenage boy living at his home despite that boy having a father and other relatives in the area.
Gaetz may be innocent. He relationship with Galban may be innocent. But at the moment, all of this looks extremely bad.
It’s far from over. On Friday morning, Gaetz’s communications director resigned “out of principal.” And CNN’s Dana Bash says she’s being flooded with messages from those who have worked with Gaetz. “If you could see my text messages from some of his current and former colleagues,” said Bash. “I actually can’t repeat what some of them say on morning television.”
There’s also this bit of reporting from Florida Trend that dates back to Gaetz’s time in the Florida House. That was when the state attempted to pass a bill against revenge porn that ended up being so watered down that it would ultimately prove useless in defending women. The bill got that way because “one of the chief opponents of the legislation was Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach).” Even after succeeding in getting the bill gutted, Gaetz was one of just two legislators who voted against it. That’s especially damning history as CNN reported on Thursday evening that Gaetz allegedly sent other lawmakers “photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with.”
That wasn’t just Florida legislators then. It was Washington, D.C. legislators today. Matt Gaetz has been walking around Congress showing off nude videos of women he claims to have slept with to his fellow Republicans, all while continuing his tirades about “family values.” And none of them, not one, called him out on it.
What may be the most disturbing thing about Gaetz’s reported actions is his own sense that he was apparently untouchable. According to sources at ABC and The New York Times, Gaetz kept up his recruitment and pay of women well after Greenberg had been arrested, and even after Gaetz had announced his engagement.
What may be most disturbing about everyone else is that they’re just coming forward with their statements about Gaetz now, even though they’ve known exactly what he is for years. This is a scandal with boundaries that are still growing. And it’s not going to stop with Gaetz.