Mr. Gaetz has denied having sex with a 17-year-old or paying for sex. A spokesman denied that he privately requested a pardon in connection with the continuing Justice Department inquiry.
“Entry-level political operatives have conflated a pardon call from Representative Gaetz — where he called for President Trump to pardon ‘everyone from himself, to his administration, to Joe Exotic’ — with these false and increasingly bizarre, partisan allegations against him,” the spokesman said in a statement. “Those comments have been on the record for some time, and President Trump even retweeted the congressman, who tweeted them out himself.”
Though Mr. Gaetz had little formal power in the House, where he remains a backbencher, he offered Mr. Trump what he craved and what Republican congressional leaders would not always offer: fierce loyalty and a taste for bare-knuckle political combat.
In his memoir published last fall, “Firebrand: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the MAGA Revolution,” Mr. Gaetz recalled his first one-on-one phone call with the president in late 2017. Mr. Trump had seen Mr. Gaetz on Fox News attacking Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, and thought he had heard an ally.
“I need warriors, you know what I mean?” the president told him.
Mr. Gaetz knew precisely. Though he came from the more conservative Florida Panhandle, the young congressman shared Mr. Trump’s taste for boasts, particularly about sexual exploits, and a knack for self-promotion. Neither was particularly impressed by the trappings of traditional power in Washington, and both were sons of powerful men. Mr. Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, was the president of the Florida Senate and a wealthy businessman, and Mr. Trump’s father a successful real estate developer in New York.
After Democrats took back the House in 2018 and began cranking up pressure on the Trump administration, Mr. Gaetz emerged as a standout in what he called the “warrior class” of lawmakers who made it their mission to protect the president.
“The president has called me when I was in my car, asleep in the middle of the night on my Longworth Office cot, on the throne, on airplanes, in nightclubs, and even in the throes of passion (yes, I answered),” Mr. Gaetz boasted in his book.