The parties the women described to CNN sometimes functioned as after-parties to political events, happening in a gated community or in hotel suites. Women were asked to put away their cell phones—can’t have pictures getting out—and drugs including cocaine and ecstasy circulated. Gaetz himself took some kind of pills, according to one woman who described him acting like a “frat type of party boy.”
One of the women said that she was paid by former Seminole County tax commissioner Joel Greenberg, Gaetz’s associate, for providing sex, though she didn’t name names. Significantly, while she wouldn’t say who she did have sex with, she did say she never received money directly from Gaetz. So she was willing to exonerate him on one point, but not the other. We know, from Venmo records, that Gaetz has a history of sending Greenberg money to “hit up [woman’s name],” with Greenberg then sending the same amount of money on to multiple women. “Didn’t take money directly from Gaetz, but did take it from Greenberg,” then, doesn’t mean you didn’t get money from Gaetz. For sex.
Investigators may already know quite a lot more about this from Greenberg, who has been cooperating with federal law enforcement in hopes of getting a plea deal, and could conceivably testify against Gaetz (for whatever Greenberg’s credibility is worth at this point). A key point will be whether Greenberg can substantiate the reports of Gaetz being involved in sex trafficking a 17-year-old.
Gaetz, whose spokesman refused to comment for the CNN story, seems to have tried to get out ahead of it with a barrage of attacks on CNN, using a Project Veritas video of a CNN employee talking about the propaganda value of stories about Gaetz. The employee appears to be talking about hypothetical Democratic Party efforts to push Gaetz stories, but in the captioning, Project Veritas repeatedly puts “(CNN)” to make it look like he’s specifically saying that CNN is engaged in a sustained propaganda campaign against Gaetz. Even by Project Veritas standards, it’s a weak effort, but Gaetz had it as his pinned tweet on his personal Twitter account, and between that account and his official one, he had tweeted about this “story” at least 26 times. Talk about your stench of desperation.
The thing is, Gaetz can try to get ahead of any single CNN story. He can turn to the tried-and-true Republican tactic of attacking the media and painting himself as the victim of baseless propaganda more generally. He can’t get around federal investigators in the same way, especially given that we’re talking about an investigation that was started by the Trump Justice Department and which then-Attorney General William Barr took seriously enough to avoid being photographed with Gaetz. Gaetz is getting due process, but it still looks bad for him—bad enough for Donald Trump to be distancing himself, and you know that’s bad.