It has been a little more than a month since the bomb was dropped about Rep. Matt Gaetz’s sex scandal. I discussed back in March how Gaetz was linked to Joel Greenberg, a Republican officeholder in Seminole County, Florida, who was arrested on sex trafficking and stalking charges. Gaetz himself was reported to be under investigation by the FBI for the sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl. Now new details have emerged and things look even worse for the Florida congressman.
Last week, the Daily Beast reported that Greenberg sought help from Roger Stone in obtaining a pardon from then-President Donald Trump. As part of the package requesting the pardon, Greenberg wrote a description of his crimes, which amounts to a signed confession. The resulting document is very incriminating, not only for Greenberg but for Gaetz as well.
Greenberg names names. Actually, he names initials and offices, but the references point straight to Matt Gaetz. After all, there is only one “congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District” who hung around with Greenberg and who has the initials “MG.”
Referencing the 17-year-old girl, Greenberg wrote, “On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself.”
“From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18. I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App, or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman,” Greenberg continued.
In the documents obtained by the Daily Beast, which include multiple drafts, one of which was handwritten, Greenberg said that he learned that the girl was under Florida’s minimum age of consent through an “anonymous tip” on September 24, 2017.
“Immediately I called the congressman and warned him to stay clear of this person and informed him she was underage,” Greenberg wrote. “He was equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation.”
After learning her age, Greenberg said that he confronted the girl and that, “She apologized and recognized that by lying about her age, she endangered many people. There was no further contact with this individual until after her 18th birthday.”
Other documents reportedly show that Gaetz sent Greenberg $900 by Venmo with the instruction to “hit up” the 17-year-old prior to Greenberg’s warning. Greenberg then paid $900 to the girl and two other women a few hours later.
Transaction records obtained by the Beast show that Greenberg made more than 150 Venmo payments to more than 40 women. The payments were generally between $300 and $500, although some were more than $1,000. Reporters spoke with 12 women who say that they understood that they were being paid at least in part for sex.
Gaetz seems to be adopting the same strategy that many recent politicians have taken when confronted with wrongdoing. He is refusing to budge. Gaetz seems to be operating in a business-as-usual mode and has refused to step down.
Other Republicans are exhibiting the same moral courage that we have seen over the past four years by refusing to comment on the scandal.
And Gaetz, like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been credibly accused of sexual harassment by numerous women, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who appeared in blackface, and President Trump, who was credibly accused of numerous improper and corrupt acts, may survive at least until his term ends. Neither party seems interested in forcing out its own members, no matter how egregious their behavior. Gone are the days when congressmen would fall on their swords and resign when caught in humiliating and unethical behavior.
Greenberg’s story does not end there, however. The Daily Beast’s trove of documents also suggests that Roger Stone was in the business of selling access to President Trump for potential pardons. Several messages indicate that Stone expected $250,000 from Greenberg for facilitating the pardon.
This means that Stone, who himself received a commutation and pardon from President Trump, may be back in hot legal water. There are numerous potential charges, including fraud and bribery, that could stem from selling pardons.
It is doubtful that the trail would lead to more legal problems for Trump, however. So far, the former president has not been directly linked to the matter, Greenberg never received a pardon, and no money seems to have been paid to Stone or Trump.
Nevertheless, the scandal, which Gaetz is prolonging by refusing to go quietly, further tarnishes the Republican Party with allegations of corruption. That may be a problem as the country moves toward the 2022 midterm elections. After all, for most voters, prostitution and the sex trafficking of underage girls is not a traditional family value.
I want to address something else that happened to me last night that was really disturbing. While hanging out on Twitter, I saw the following post, which was quickly deleted before I could respond.
I engaged this person, who I assume is a woman, on a separate thread and my heart aches for her. I understand people being angry about alarmists who are overly cautious about the virus, but her example shows the flip side of how alarmism about the reaction to the virus can drive people to despondency.
She went on to say that she believes that we have “lost a generation” and that learning lost over the past year will “affect society for decades.” The guilt that she feels for failing her students is so great that she has contemplated suicide. She feels this way even though she has been teaching in person for most of this school year.
She didn’t arrive at these notions on her own. She has read articles about how we will never recover from the reaction to the pandemic.
Her reaction is way overblown and I tried to encourage her in our conversation. I told her that we may have lost a year, but we have not lost a generation. Her students will need dedicated teachers like her as they struggle to catch up in the coming years.
In 2020, we were faced with a completely new disease. Especially in the early days, there were many unknowns and what we learned about COVID-19 sometimes conflicted with what we thought we knew.
Some of the decisions that we made were right and some were wrong. Some erred on the side of being too cautious while some were not cautious enough.
Sometimes different places had different results. When Israel reopened schools in the spring of 2020, it fueled a nationwide outbreak. Thankfully, the American experience with schools has been better, but it is difficult to fault officials for being careful.
Whatever decisions were made, we have to move forward from where we are now. And we will move forward. We have to. Time marches on and we either lie down, give up, and die or deal with situation that we are in as best we can.
The pandemic’s effect on education has not been good, but neither has it been disastrous. The delays in education caused by the pandemic are not something that can’t be overcome.
Part of the Twitter user’s depression may relate to the fact that she undergoing her second case of COVID, which is in itself an argument that there should have been more mitigations. In any case, she could use your prayers.
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