I discussed the controversy with Smerconish on his radio program before the Kent interview. We discussed how bizarre it is to have a written demand for $25 million that references potential criminal charges against Gaetz and the possibility of a pardon from President Joe Biden. Usually extortionists do not lay out the deal in writing like an investment prospectus.
The funds were being purportedly sought to secure the release of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007. Levinson was believed to have been working for the CIA and, at the time of the demand, he was already believed to have died in Iranian custody.
Kent confirmed the request made to Gaetz’ father, Don Gaetz, and the involvement of former DOJ lawyer David McGee, who served as the Levinson family’s attorney. He also admitted that he told Don Gaetz how the money would “generate good will” for his son. However, he insisted that
It is also notable that Kent was working with Florida businessman Stephen Alford, who reportedly was convicted of fraud.
That brings us to the document obtained by the Washington Examiner. It was allegedly sent by Kent. This includes an express promise that, with the $25 million, his son will be guaranteed a spot on the plane bringing back Levinson and a presidential pardon “alleviating all of this legal issues.”
Gaetz now has confirmed that the demand was made and he has the communication on an apparent quid pro quo pitch. However, that does not “alleviate” his legal jeopardy. If charged with sex trafficking, a judge could exclude the alleged extortion demand and evidence on the basis that it would not be a defense to the charge itself. Even if Gaetz was being blackmailed, the existence of such a conspiracy would not alter the fact that he allegedly committed sex trafficking crimes. Thus, the jury might never know of the countervailing narrative.
There remains the question of whether Gaetz did have relations with a 17-year-old. He vehemently denies that claim. The FBI presumably has this evidence. If he did not have a relationship with an under-aged girl, the remaining charges would involve prostitution claims in arranging for the travel and compensation of adult women for sex. Such charges are far less series than sex trafficking under-aged girls, but there is still much that we do not know about the focus of this investigation.
This is why, as with figures like Andrew Cuomo, demands for a resignation or expulsion for Gaetz are premature until we can see actual evidence and confirmed actual facts. There is much that has been reported that is deeply disturbing, including Gaetz’ alleged history of bragging about such sexual encounters or participating in juvenile games tied to sexual relations. That may offer compelling evidence that he is a terrible person, but that would not make him necessarily stand out in Congress. The question is whether he is criminally not morally culpable. That demands a modicum of proof and patience.