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Matt Gaetz, the House GOP’s Token Troublemaker, Caught in Escalating Ethics Probe That Could Lead to Expulsion

ABC News reports that "multiple new witnesses" have been contacted in an investigation into allegations of sex trafficking and lobbying violations

<p>SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty</p> US Representative Matt Gaetz

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty

US Representative Matt Gaetz

A reopened House Ethics Committee probe of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz has widened in recent weeks, with ABC News reporting that "multiple new witnesses" have been contacted in the investigation.

The committee's investigators initially deferred an investigation into Gaetz following a request from the Department of Justice, which was conducting its own investigation. But last June, reports surfaced that the committee was re-examining allegations surrounding the controversial lawmaker, who has been a driving force behind the House GOP's recent division and stoked the months-long speakership battle in 2023.

Related: Matt Gaetz May Have Trouble Ahead — House Ethics Committee Quietly Reopens Its Probe into His Conduct: Report

grand jury separately investigated whether the Florida Republican had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid her to travel with him, though investigators recommended not moving forward with trafficking charges against the lawmaker.

ABC News reports that, in recent days, the House committee's investigators have expanded their "contact with individuals who have ties to the initial Justice Department investigation into Gaetz," and that the investigation centers both on the sex trafficking allegations as well as possible lobbying violations by Gaetz.

Related: House Republicans Discuss Expelling Matt Gaetz as He Threatens Ouster of Kevin McCarthy

<p>Drew Angerer/Getty</p> Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz leaves a closed-door meeting in the House Judiciary Committee room on June 4, 2021

Drew Angerer/Getty

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz leaves a closed-door meeting in the House Judiciary Committee room on June 4, 2021

News of the federal investigation into Gaetz first broke in March 2021 and, according to The New York Times, was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under then-Attorney General Bill Barr.

Sources told NBC News at the time that Gaetz was being investigated for three separate alleged crimes: sex trafficking a 17-year-old; violating the Mann Act by taking a woman or women across state lines for prostitution; and obstruction of justice.

Related: Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz Eloped amid Scandal and Sex Trafficking Investigation

The probe involving Gaetz reportedly spun out of another investigation, into Joel Greenberg, his friend and former GOP official from Seminole County, Florida.

Greenberg was indicted on a range of charges, including sex trafficking of a child, in 2020. In May 2021, he pleaded guilty to multiple charges including sex trafficking a minor and was believed to be cooperating with authorities.

Related: Matt Gaetz Reportedly Investigated for Possible Trafficking of Teen Girl as He Says He Is Victim of Extortion

The House Ethics Committee first announced it, too, had begun an investigation into Gaetz in April 2021, saying in a statement, "The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Matt Gaetz may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct."

But in a later report, the committee said it "had not completed its investigation into this matter," and had "deferred consideration of the matter in response to a request from DOJ."

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Gaetz, who assumed office in 2017, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, previously insisting to multiple news outlets that the overarching case was "rooted in an extortion effort" against him.

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