Trump Breaks His Silence to Give the Weakest Possible Defense of Matt Gaetz

The brief, carefully worded statement seemed mostly intended to protect himself.

Paul Hennessy/ZUMA

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

Nearly a week after allegations of sex trafficking involving Rep. Matt Gaetz—one of Donald Trump’s most flamboyant, unapologetic defenders in Congress—became public, the former president is finally acknowledging the Florida congressman’s existence. But his new statement, clocking in at just 24 words, is far from the full-throated defense Gaetz was likely hoping to receive.

“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” reads Trump’s Wednesday statement. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

The statement specifically responds to only a small part of Gaetz’s imploding scandals, and it doesn’t come as a surprise that it involves Trump himself. On Tuesday night, the New York Times reported that Gaetz, in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, approached the White House for “blanket preemptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional aides.” The request came as the Justice Department began questioning Gaetz about his alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old. Trump’s response on Wednesday appears carefully worded to note that Gaetz did not ask him personally for such pardons—never mind that the Times never reported that.

As for the allegations of sex trafficking a minor, paying for sex, and other sordid details that have emerged in the past week, Trump merely noted that Gaetz denies them all. That rather milquetoast defense is a good reminder that Trump, who stands credibly accused by more than 20 women of sexual assault and misconduct, also denies the allegations against him.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate