Rep. Matt Gaetz, (R-Florida) is being investigated by the US Justice Department about paid sexual relations he is alleged to have had with an underage 17-year-old girl two years ago, The New York Times first reported, citing three sources, on Tuesday.
Gaetz, 38, who is closely tied to former US president Donald Trump, is also being investigated for whether he paid for her travel within the context of the sexual relationship, the Times continued.
Gaetz has not yet been charged, and has denied the allegations, CNBC reported: "No part of the allegations against me are true."
He reiterated his denial of the allegations, the news of which spread quickly, on Fox News on Tuesday night, calling the "horrible allegation... a lie," CNBC noted.
"I believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to criminalize my sexual conduct, you know, when I was a single guy," he told Axios.
The report noted that, according to various federal laws, it is illegal to pay someone under 18 for sexual acts, as well as to transport them across state borders.
The investigation was initiated under former attorney-general William Barr, the sources added, as Trump's second term came to an end.
Gaetz alleged in return that the accusations propelled against him now are actually part of a larger DOJ attempt at extortion aimed at his family.
"They are rooted in an extortion effort against my family for $25 million … in exchange for making this case go away," he told Axios.
Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name.We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter...— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) March 30, 2021