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Matt Gaetz request for meeting with Trump was not snubbed, both sides say

The Guardian - Mon Apr 12 12:43

Matt Gaetz and a spokesman for Donald Trump reacted angrily late on Sunday after CNN reported that the scandal-hit Florida Republican congressman sought a meeting with the former US president when allegations of sex-trafficking and illegal drug use were first reported – and was rebuffed.

CNN cited two anonymous sources who “said Gaetz tried to schedule a visit with Trump after it was first revealed that he was being investigated”. It said “the request was rejected by aides close to the former president”.

The New York Times first reported federal investigations of Gaetz on 30 March. Since then, multiple reports have linked the congressman to an ally in Florida indicted for sex trafficking and other crimes but reported to be close to a deal with prosecutors.

Gaetz is reported to be under investigation for possible sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl; for allegedly paying for sex; for alleged use of illegal drugs; and for allegedly showing House members nude pictures of women.

He denies all accusations. The Times has also reported that towards the end of Trump’s time in power, Gaetz sought a blanket pre-emptive pardon. Trump denied receiving such a request.

In response to the CNN report, Trump’s spokesman, Jason Miller, tweeted: “This story is complete fake news. No such scheduling or meeting request was ever made, and therefore, it could never have been declined. Take note that this story has zero on-the-record sources. It’s literally made-up. We are demanding a full retraction.”

Trump and his aides and supporters regularly complain about stories in which anonymous sources are used – a common practice in US media.

This weekend saw Republicans and donors gather for events in Florida. According to reports of Trump’s remarks at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night, he did not mention Gaetz when he thanked supporters including the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis.

Gaetz spoke at a Trump golf course on Friday. Telling a pro-Trump women’s group “truth will prevail”, he added: “I know this. Firebrands don’t retreat, especially when the battle for the soul of our country calls.”

On Twitter, Gaetz called the CNN report “a total lie. I am on a pre-planned vacation with my fiancée. I was welcomed at Trump Doral days ago. No such meeting was denied nor sought.”

But the CNN report said Gaetz had sought a meeting “after it was first revealed that he was being investigated”. It also quoted an anonymous source who said aides to the former president “were under the impression that Gaetz went down [to Florida this weekend] to try and run into Trump or people around him”.

Leading Republicans continue to keep their distance from Gaetz, one consultant even saying “a 10ft pole is not long enough” for Trump.

On Sunday Liz Cheney, a member of House Republican leadership and a target of attacks by Gaetz, told CBS the allegations were “sickening” but did not call for Gaetz to resign. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, told the same network she preferred to let a House ethics investigation continue.