It's been nearly six months since The New York Times first reported on the Justice Department's investigation into Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz. According to the initial reporting, investigators were examining allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a minor, possibly violating federal sex-trafficking laws in the process. What's more, as we've discussed, the scope of the scandal surrounding the Florida congressman has grown considerably since the initial revelations.
Conditions grew more serious over the summer when Joel Greenberg, an almost comically scandalous figure whom Gaetz used to describe as his "wingman," pleaded guilty as part of a cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors. Greenberg's lawyer told reporters, "I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today."
That discomfort likely intensified yesterday. Politico reported:
A corrupt former Florida tax official and one-time "wingman" to Rep. Matt Gaetz won extra time Monday to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their investigation of the congressman and a host of other scandals. Joel Greenberg was set to be sentenced on Nov. 18 for six crimes he pleaded guilty to earlier this year, but prosecutors successfully implored U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell to wait until March so they can track down all of the leads Greenberg has given to investigators.
A federal prosecutor specifically told the judge in this case that Greenberg "was a prolific criminal," who has provided information on several "lines of investigation we are pursuing." The U.S. attorney's office sought additional time "because of the need to follow up on some of these leads."
As part of yesterday's hearing, the prosecutor added that Greenberg has raised allegations that "take us to some places we did not anticipate."
Gaetz's name was not mentioned. The GOP congressman has denied wrongdoing, though he has acknowledged the Justice Department investigation.
For their part, House Republican leaders have said they intend to overlook the Floridian's scandal unless and until he's criminally charged.
While it's difficult to say who may or may not be implicated by Greenberg's cooperation, the more he talks, the greater the risks for Gaetz, who's facing a series of potential legal controversies, including alleged obstruction of justice.
As Rachel has emphasized on the show, the good news for Gaetz is that his former pal may have a credibility problem. After all, Greenberg has pleaded guilty to several felonies.
That said, prosecutors have already gone out of their way to highlight the safeguards in the plea agreement to ensure that Greenberg is entirely forthright — the punishments for deceptions would be severe — and as The New York Times' Michael Schmidt has noted, prosecutors aren't relying exclusively on Greenberg for information.
Watch this space.