WASHINGTON – The No. 2 House Republican leader said Wednesday that party leaders would “take action" against Rep. Matt Gaetz if the Justice Department formally moves against the Florida lawmaker, who is under federal investigation for alleged sex trafficking.
The remarks by Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana made him the latest congressional Republicans to opt against springing to the defense of the three-term lawmaker from Florida's panhandle. Federal investigators are probing Gaetz over allegations that include sex with a minor, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they could not discuss details publicly.
Scalise said in recent years, party leaders have removed Republican lawmakers facing serious charges from their committee assignments. That was essentially a restatement of the House GOP's internal rules, which require lawmakers to resign from committees if they are indicted for felonies with penalties of at least two years in prison.
“If something really formal happened from Justice, we would of course react and take action," Scalise told reporters.
A frequent face on conservative television networks and an ardent ally of former President Donald Trump, Gaetz has broadly denied the accusations and not been charged with any crimes. He serves on the Armed Services and Judiciary committees, and critics have said he should immediately be removed from the Judiciary panel because it oversees the Justice Department.
Scalise did not directly answer questions about whether he has confidence in Gaetz. Scalise said he's not discussed the allegations with Gaetz but expected to meet with him this week.
“It's serious things alleged. Obviously we want to get the facts," Scalise said.
Gaetz did not attend a weekly closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Wednesday, Scalise said. But he did appear at Judiciary and Armed Services committee hearings and appeared relaxed.