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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

McCarthy says Gaetz forced him out of House speakership ‘to stop ethics complaint’ over sex scandal | Republicans | The Guardian

McCarthy says Gaetz forced him out of House speakership ‘to stop ethics complaint’ over sex scandal

"Former speaker says Matt Gaetz led charge to remove him to quash allegations Florida representative ‘slept with a 17-year-old’

a man with brown hair in a black suit and green tie and a man with grey hair in a dark suit
Florida representative Matt Gaetz (left) reportedly pushed to remove McCarthy (right) in retaliation for the House ethics investigation. Composite: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The far-right Florida Republican Matt Gaetz forced Kevin McCarthy out as House speaker last year “because he slept with a 17-year-old” and wanted a congressional ethics investigation to end, McCarthy charged on Tuesday.

“I’ll give you the truth why I’m not speaker,” McCarthy said, at an event at Georgetown University in Washington.

“Because one person, a member of Congress, wanted me to stop an ethics complaint because he slept with a 17-year-old, an ethics complaint that started before I ever became speaker. And that’s illegal and I’m not gonna get in the middle of it.

“Now, did he do it or not? I don’t know. But ethics was looking at it. There’s other people in jail because of it. And he wanted me to influence it.”

The House ethics investigation of allegations against Gaetz opened in 2021, when Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, was speaker.

The House investigation was paused when Gaetz was investigated by the US Department of Justice for sex trafficking, over allegations that he paid for sex and had sex with an underage woman. In December 2022, Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector whose arrest led to the investigation of Gaetz, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for offences including sex trafficking a minor.

In February 2023, prosecutors said they would not issue charges. The House ethics investigation then restarted.

Gaetz denies wrongdoing. On Tuesday, he told Politico: “Kevin is a liar. Which, actually, is why he isn’t speaker. Just ask any of the 224 people who voted to remove him.”

McCarthy became the first speaker ever ejected by his own party, last October, after Gaetz introduced a motion to vacate and attracted support from seven other Republicans. Because Democrats refused to come to McCarthy’s aid, that was enough to show him the door. McCarthy left Congress at the end of last year.

Citing a review of private correspondence, the Daily Beast has reported that Gaetz “indicated to a friend that his effort to undercut, isolate and ultimately remove McCarthy was, indeed, payback” for the House ethics investigation.

The Beast said “other Republican congressional sources” also said Gaetz was motivated to move against McCarthy by the ethics investigation, not policy differences.

Gaetz told the Beast: “As I’ve answered likely 100 times on the record, I led the charge to remove Kevin McCarthy from his role as House speaker because he failed to keep his promises.”

McCarthy lost his job shortly after relying on Democratic support to pass a spending package, thereby averting a government shutdown. His successor as speaker, Mike Johnson, now faces a similar threat, a motion to vacate filed by another rightwing extremist, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, but not yet forced to a vote.

At Georgetown, McCarthy said: “So then they come out and they say [I was ejected] because I kept government open. I’d do it all over again. We’re not going to pay our troops? I’m going to pay my troops, you can do the job …

“I think today if you went back for the people that voted [to remove me] they think that was a smart vote? I don’t think so … I made everybody stand up, because I think historically, it’ll be viewed as a very bad thing that happened to our Congress.”

Asked if he thought the same would happen to Johnson, McCarthy said: “No. The Democrats will never let it happen.”

McCarthy says Gaetz forced him out of House speakership ‘to stop ethics complaint’ over sex scandal | Republicans | The Guardian

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