Even as his former running buddy Joel Greenberg struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz is continuing his national speaking tour.
The Congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District will bless the mic in the Buckeye State Saturday, regaling the crowd at the 2021 Ohio Political Summit in Strongsville, a suburb of Cleveland.
He will speak despite Greenberg’s plans, first reported by the Orlando Sentinel, to plead guilty to sex trafficking, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official. These may be weighty issues with Florida political watchers, but not as much on the political right, apparently.
Gaetz is the headliner at the Ohio event. His picture in the promotional material appears above that of both conservative commentator Candace Owens and Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert.
U.S. Senate candidates, including “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance, will also speak at the event. But Gaetz takes a headliner’s pride in the draw.
“People are saying the Strongsville GOP has never sold more tickets to an event in its history,” Gaetz said, underscoring the historic nature of this gathering.
For the Congressman, embattled though he may be by a reported Justice Department investigation and a confirmed House ethics inquiry, the Strongsville trip is the latest in a series of hot quote laden speeches in response to the widely reported federal investigation into the Congressman.
Floridians in the Villages last week were treated to the Congressman’s roadshow with yet another controversial colleague, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.
Gaetz referred to himself as a “wanted” man, a “canceled” man, but a “Florida man,” a line practiced from his heyday on the Trump rally circuit of the pandemic election of 2020.
“Un-bossed, un-bought, un-bowed: that is the mantra of America First,” Gaetz said, channeling former U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm, who used the line in a very different context (a historic presidential campaign) than Gaetz’s predicament, circumstances largely of his own making.
Reportedly, federal investigators are probing a 2018 trip Gaetz took with Dr. Jason Pirozzolo and Halsey Beshears to the Bahamas. Prosecutors with the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section are examining whether Gaetz took gifts, including travel and paid escorts, in exchange for political favors, according to CNN. Gaetz denies any wrongdoing.
The Greenberg plea deal complicates matters for Gaetz, who once called him his “wingman.” Those wings have long since been clipped, however.
“I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Greenberg’s attorney Fritz Scheller told reporters last month, noting Greenberg’s cooperation would likely be contingent on whether it was required by prosecutors to get a plea deal.
With 27 of the 33 charges in the original indictment being dropped, it appears that cooperation is underway.