(CNN) — According to a source familiar with the matter, prosecutors have recommended that Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz not be charged in a state sex-trafficking investigation.
The recommendation comes in part because prosecutors have questions about whether key witnesses would be perceived as credible in the long-running jury investigation, the source said.
According to the source, senior Justice Department officials have not made a final decision on whether to charge Gaetz. CNN previously reported that the department was facing a looming deadline for filing charges to avoid disrupting an election, which is required under Justice Department guidelines. Gaetz is standing for re-election in November.
The Florida congressman was investigated over sex trafficking and prostitution-related allegations, including whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Gaetz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
There are indications that the Justice Department’s case could run into trouble. In July, prosecutors agreed to allow a key witness and collaborator in the investigation, Gaetz’s close friend Joel Greenberg, to proceed with the conviction in December on charges including soliciting sex with a minor. The Justice Department had repeatedly attempted to delay his sentencing in anticipation of his support in the Gaetz investigation.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
The Washington Post first reported on the federal prosecutor’s recommendation.
An attorney for Gaetz told CNN on Friday that they have not received any official communication from the department regarding an indictment decision.
A spokesman for the congressman said, “Those who told lies about Rep. Matt Gaetz are going to jail, and Rep. Matt Gaetz is going back to Congress to continue fighting for America.”
Gaetz sought a pre-emptive presidential pardon from Donald Trump, an aide to the former president told the House of Representatives investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. John McEntee, who served as director of the President’s Office of Human Resources, testified that he interpreted the request in the context of the DOJ investigation.
According to McEntee, Gaetz said the Justice Department is trying to “make his life hell” and that it would be “great” if he could get a pardon.
Prosecutors continued to expand their case over the past year, recruiting several people associated with Gaetz to cooperate in the investigation. A key associate, his ex-girlfriend, who worked on Capitol Hill and was linked to Gaetz in the summer of 2017, testified before a Florida grand jury in January.
Greenberg, a former Florida County tax officer, pleaded guilty to six counts last year. He had told the Justice Department about encounters he and Gaetz had with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex, CNN reported.
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