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As his scandal intensifies, Matt Gaetz is running short on friends

This would ordinarily be the point at which a lawmaker circles the wagons and relies on a small army of allies, but Matt Gaetz is short on friends.
Image: Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fl, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill on Dec. 11, 2019.Jose Luis Magana / Pool via Reuters file

If Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) had any hopes that his new scandal would be a one-day story, those hopes were dashed in spectacular fashion as yesterday's news unfolded.

To briefly recap, we learned on Tuesday night that the Justice Department is investigating the Florida Republican over allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a minor and may have paid for her to travel with him, possibly violating federal sex trafficking laws in the process.

The allegations, which the congressman has denied, came to the attention of federal law enforcement as part of a larger investigation into one of Gaetz's political allies: Joel Greenberg, an almost comically scandalous figure, who has been indicted on a variety of crimes, "including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl."

Yesterday, developments got a bit more complicated. For one thing, as Rachel explained near the top of last night's show, the charges against Greenberg continued to mushroom, including a brand new federal indictment. For another, there was new reporting on a related FBI investigation into people who approached Gaetz's father with an offer to "help" the congressman with his legal difficulties.

And while that mess is striking on its own, the bottom line remains the same: Matt Gaetz, a sitting Republican congressman and borderline-creepy ally of Donald Trump, is facing a serious federal criminal investigation. The probe began months ago, and was recognized by then-Attorney General Bill Barr, who reportedly took steps to avoid being in the same room as the Floridian late last year.

This would ordinarily be the point at which a GOP lawmaker circles the wagons and relies on a small army of partisan allies, but as The Hill noted, that isn't much of an option for Gaetz.

[F]acing a federal investigation into allegations of a sexual relationship with an underage girl, Gaetz is finding himself in an unusual spot: on the ropes and virtually alone. Few of Gaetz's GOP colleagues are coming to the defense of the third-term Floridian ... and a number of Republicans, while warning against jumping to premature conclusions about Gaetz's conduct, also suggested they wouldn't miss him if he were gone.

"I don't know anything about this situation other than to say he has certainly made enemies and painted a bull's-eye on his back," said one unnamed Republican lawmaker.

It'd be an overstatement to say no one on Capitol Hill is defending Gaetz -- Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), for example, offered their support yesterday. (Jordan's own controversy makes him an unfortunate ally given the circumstances.)

But they were more of an exception than the rule. Business Insider had a related report quoting a GOP congressional aide saying Republican leaders, eager to be rid of the grandstander, "will likely watch him completely implode in a matter of days without having to do a thing."

On a related note, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) acknowledged yesterday that the allegations surrounding Gaetz are "serious," and the GOP leader intended to have a private meeting with the Floridian about the controversy.

Asked whether he would take any action against Gaetz, such as removing him from the Judiciary Committee, McCarthy added, "[The Justice Department] has not told me anything. If a member at my conference gets indicted, they will get removed from a committee. He says this is not true. And we have a newspaper report that says something else. We'll find out the basis."

The House minority leader did not appear overly eager to throw his support behind Gaetz in the midst of his difficulties.