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STORY BY PAUL LEBLANC, EVAN PEREZ AND RYAN NOBLES, CNN

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Rep. Matt Gaetz denies he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old
Published on March 31, 2021 2:09 AM

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Rep. Matt Gaetz denies relationship with 17-year-old and claims extortion attempt
(CNN)Rep. Matt Gaetz on Tuesday denied that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old after the New York Times reported that, according to its sources, the Justice Department was investigating a possible sexual relationship with the girl and whether he paid for her to travel with him.

The Florida Republican said in a statement to CNN that "no part of the allegations against me are true" and that the claims were being pushed by people who are targets of an "ongoing extortion investigation."

"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 and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI's direction to catch these criminals," Gaetz claimed.

"The planted leak to the New York Times tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations," Gaetz added.

In an interview on Fox News, Gaetz strongly denied the accusations and accused a former Department of Justice prosecutor of attempting to extort him and his family over the allegations. The congressman named the former prosecutor. CNN is not naming the attorney, but has reached out to them for a response to Gaetz's claims.

"The person doesn't exist. I have not had a relationship with a 17-year-old. That is totally false. The allegation is, as I read in the New York Times is, I have traveled with some 17-year-old in some relationship. That is false and records will bear that out to be false," he said.