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Gaetz says effort to remove McCarthy 'not at all' related to ethics complaint, McCarthy disagrees

"He can threaten all he wants. I will not interject the Speaker into the independent ethics committee to influence it any way at all," McCarthy said in September.

Published: October 2, 2023 11:00pm

Updated: October 2, 2023 11:28pm

Conservative Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) says his effort to remove House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is "not at all" related to an ethics complaint against him, despite suggestions from McCarthy to the contrary.

A House Ethics Committee probe was opened in 2021 against Gaetz when Democrats were in the majority. At the time, a brief named several topics covered by the probe. It is not clear what the status of that probe is at this time. Media reports from July suggested that the probe is still going on but the House Ethics Committee declined to comment when contacted by Just the News on Monday.

According to a committee statement from April 2021, its investigation of allegations against Gaetz, at the time, related to:

- "Sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use"

- Sharing "inappropriate images or videos on the House floor"

- Misusing "state identification records"

- Converting campaign funds to personal use and/or accepting a "bribe, improper gratuity or impermissible gift in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct"

Just the News contacted the office of the committee's current chairman, Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.), and asked if the Gaetz ethics investigation is currently underway or if it has been closed.

A spokesperson for the chairman told Just the News that "as the chairman and a member of the ethics committee, Congressman Guest is bound by the Ethic Committee’s Confidentiality Rule and has no comment on matters that are or could come before the Committee."

On Sept. 12, McCarthy said publicly that Gaetz sought his assistance with regard to the ethics complaint.

"He can threaten all he wants. I will not interject the Speaker into the independent ethics committee to influence it any way at all," McCarthy told reporters.

Gaetz responded to McCarthy's public statement.

“I am the most investigated man in the entire Congress, and right there you saw Kevin McCarthy lying like a dead dog because I have never asked him to interfere in any ethics matter,” Gaetz said on Sept. 13.

The issue came up again after McCarthy put a 45-day clean stopgap bill on the House floor this weekend to avoid a government shutdown. The measure passed with votes from Republicans and Democrats and President Biden signed it. Gaetz has revived his threat to introduce a motion to vacate to remove McCarthy.

Gaetz was asked his actions have anything to do with the ethics complaint against him.

"Not at all," he said on CNN Sunday. "I am the most investigated man in the United States Congress. I have been cleared by the DOJ, the FEC by a 5-0 vote. And the people who spread criminal lies about me are sitting in federal prison right now. So, I'm fine being investigated by anyone and everyone."

Gaetz argued that McCarthy's public statements about Gaetz allegedly asking him to intervene in an ethics complaint "was him gaslighting the Ethics Committee."

McCarthy predicted on Sunday he will "survive" Gaetz's effort to oust him. Gaetz formally introduced the motion to vacate on Monday evening.

"This is personal with Matt," he said. "He's more interested in securing TV interviews than doing something, he wanted to push us into a shutdown, even threatening his own district with all the military people there who would not be paid only because he wants to take this motion. So be it, bring it on. Let's get over with it and let's start governing."

This is at least the second time Gaetz has been scrutinized by the Ethics Committee. In 2019, the Committee received a complaint against Gaetz regarding allegations that he "sought to threaten, intimidate, harass, or otherwise improperly influence [then-President Trump’s] former attorney, Michael Cohen, in connection with Mr. Cohen’s testimony before a congressional committee."  The allegations related to a message posted by Representative Gaetz on his unofficial Twitter account the day before Mr. Cohen was set to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. 

While the body formally admonished Gaetz for "unprofessional conduct" for which Gaetz apologized, the Committee declined to take any further action, and considers the complaint closed, adding that while "the Committee is not the social media police [...] Members are, accordingly, cautioned to exercise sound judgment when using social media."

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