The House Ethics Committee announced Friday it was opening investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct against Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz and Tom Reed.
The probes come amid a Department of Justice investigation into Gaetz’s travel to the Bahamas with women, and specifically whether those women were paid to travel for sex, which could violate federal law, NBC News has previously reported.
Reed, meanwhile, announced last month he would not see re-election following accusations from a former lobbyist that he had fondled her at a Minneapolis bar in 2017, and he apologized to his family and the lobbyist for his actions.
The Justice Department investigation into Gaetz arose from a criminal case against an associate, a former Florida county tax collector, Joel Greenberg. Federal investigators are also looking into whether Gaetz, 38, and Greenberg used the internet to search for women they could pay for sex.
In a statement, Committee Chair Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said the panel was aware of the allegations against Gaetz, including those involving the sexual misconduct accusations as well as others. But the committee investigation “does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred or reflect any judgement” of the panel.
Gaetz has not been charged with any crime, and he has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
“Once again, the office will reiterate, these allegations are blatantly false and have not been validated by a single human being willing to put their name behind them,” Gaetz’s office said in response to the House ethics investigation.
In a statement to CBS responding to reports about the Bahamas investigation, a spokesperson for Gaetz deniedthat he had ever paid for sex and called it “a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults.”
The New York Times has reported that Gaetz is being investigated for allegedly trafficking a 17-year-old.
A spokeswoman working for Gaetz outside his congressional office, Erin Elmore of the Logan Circle Group, said Friday that he has hired attorneys to push back against the swirl of allegations.
“He’s going to fight back against the unfounded allegations against him,” Elmore said.
Reed, 49 said the incident involving then-lobbyist Nicolette Davis occurred “at a time in my life in which I was struggling,”and that he had entered treatment that year and realized he was “powerless over alcohol.”
The lawmaker, who was first elected to Congress in 2010, had been among the members calling for the resignation of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo over sexual harassment allegations.
The Washington Post reported the allegations from Davis, who was 25 and a lobbyist for insurer Aflac when she said Reed, seated next to her at a Minneapolis bar, unhooked her bra from outside her blouse and moved his hand to her thigh.
Reed apologized to his wife and children and to Davis, and said he planned “to dedicate my time and attention to making amends for my past actions.”
Greenberg, meanwhile, has been hit with 33 charges in federal court in Florida, including stalking, wire fraud and sex trafficking of a minor. In a brief hearing in his case in Orlando on Thursday, Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, and federal prosecutors told the judge they expect him to strike a plea deal.
The parties did not signal if Greenberg was expected to cooperate in the investigation into Gaetz.
“I’m sure Matt Gaetz isn’t feeling very comfortable today,” Scheller said outside the courthouse after the hearing.
Garrett Haake and Alex Moe contributed.