WASHINGTON – Rep. Matt Gaetz’s communications director abruptly resigned Friday amid a storm of controversy that has struck the Republican in Florida, including news of a federal investigation into an alleged sexual relationship with a teenage girl and possible violations against sex trafficking laws.
Luke Ball, who has worked for Gaetz since joining the US House in 2017, resigned as Gaetz spokesperson “on principle”, a source with direct knowledge of his decision told the Pensacola News Journal, part of USA TODAY Network is.
Gaetz’s office said in a statement later Friday that the Congressman and Ball “agreed that it would be best to part”.
“We thank him for his time in our office and wish him all the best for the future,” the statement said.
According to LinkedIn, Ball began working at Gaetz as an intern for his Pensacola, Florida office in 2017 before becoming a congressional assistant. After working as Deputy Campaign Manager for Gaetz in 2018, Ball worked as Gaetz’s press assistant in Washington before being promoted to communications director.
Report:The federal investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz focuses on cash payments to women.
The investigation into Gaetz, one of the most ardent supporters of former President Donald Trump in Congress, began during the previous administration. Former Attorney General William Barr was briefed on the investigation last year, a person familiar with the matter told the US TODAY. The source, unauthorized to comment on a pending investigation, said federal agencies had opened a full investigation at that point.
Gaetz, who was not charged with a crime, has denied any wrongdoing and says the sexual misconduct allegations are part of a blackmail plan against him.
“Matt Gaetz never paid for sex,” and the Congressman “completely denies all obnoxious allegations,” his office told the Times in a statement. “Matt Gaetz values the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life.”
Gaetz is engaged to Ginger Luckey, the sister of Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey.
“I think there are people in the Justice Department who are trying to criminalize my sexual behavior, you know, when I was a single man,” he told Axios in an interview about the investigation and allegations.
The Justice Department’s investigation focuses on alleged cash payments Gaetz made in exchange for sex, according to the New York Times, which first covered the investigation. Authorities are also trying to determine whether 38-year-old Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl and whether she received some material in exchange for sex.
Gaetz is suspected of having made payments to several women in addition to the girl for encounters in hotels and other places, which, according to the Times, sometimes included the use of the illegal drug ecstasy. The newspaper reported that a wife of Gaetz and Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector and political ally of Gaetz who was charged on more than 30 federal charges, including child trafficking, was issued receipts for payments from Cash App and Apple Pay .
In addition to news of the federal investigation, CNN reported that Gaetz had frequently bragged about his sexual activity to his congressional colleagues. The cable news network said Gaetz shared nude photos and videos with other lawmakers of women he allegedly slept with.
And amid recent allegations, previous reports have resurfaced that as a member of Florida Legislature, Gaetz and other young male lawmakers created a “game” that awards points based on their sexual conquests. Citing unnamed sources, ABC News reported that the rating system interns, fellow lawmakers, and women who heard them were virgins.
Contributor: Jim Little, Pensacola News Journal
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