First GOP member of Congress calls on Matt Gaetz to step down

“Matt Gaetz has to step down,” said Kinzinger tweeted Thursday night, with a link to a Daily Beast article on allegations against Gaetz, details of which CNN has not confirmed.
The moderate Illinois Republican is a frequent critic of his own party, especially Donald Trump’s embrace and the former president’s lies about electoral fraud.

No charges have been filed against Gaetz, and he has denied all charges against him. The Florida Republican stared at those allegations, pursuing a familiar, in-your-face strategy perfected over the past four years by Trump, fueling his unconventional rise.

Hours after news of the investigation went public, he took to Fox News to deny any wrongdoing and claim he was the victim of an elaborate extortion scheme. Then he wrote an op-ed stating that he would “absolutely” not step down. Gaetz’s campaign sent fundraisers and accused the media of trying to take him down.

Few GOP allies speak out on his behalf, and most Republicans keep quiet while the federal investigation hangs over his head.

Federal investigators are trying to determine whether Gaetz received travel and women in exchange for political favors as part of a wider investigation, people familiar with the investigation tell CNN.

The investigation includes investigating a trip to the Bahamas and whether women were paid to travel for sex with the Florida Republican congressman and others, a possible federal crime, the sources said.

CNN has previously reported that investigators have also investigated allegations that Gaetz had had sex with an underage girl who was 17 at the time and other women who were given drugs and money in violation of sex trafficking and prostitution laws.

Gaetz’s lawyers declined to comment.

CBS News, which first reported on the trip to the Bahamas, was told by a spokeswoman, “Rep. Gaetz has never paid for sex, nor has he had sex with an underage girl. What started with screaming headlines about ‘sex trafficking’. “has now turned into a general fishing exercise about holidays and consensual relationships with adults.”

Investigators are considering Gaetz’s connections with several Florida partners who may have benefited politically in exchange for providing congressman benefits, including escorts, travel and campaign donations, the sources said.

The investigation includes allegations from witnesses and other evidence that Gaetz may have used cash and drugs in his dealings with young women, CNN previously reported.

This story has been updated with additional background information.

Annie Grayer and Sunlen Serfaty contributed to this story.