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Ex-Gaetz Staffer Says FBI Probe ‘Baseless’

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media

Former Matt Gaetz staff member Nathan Nelson addressed the investigation surrounding the Panhandle congressman outside his Santa Rosa Beach home Monday morning. 

“Last Wednesday afternoon, two FBI members came to my house unannounced to question me about allegations surrounding Congressman Gaetz,” said retired Air Force Capt. Nelson, addressing media in the driveway of his Santa Rosa Beach home. 

Nelson worked for Gaetz as his director for military affairs for the district. Nelson told theNorthwest Florida Daily NewsSunday night that he only visited Washington D.C., a handful of times. He left his post in late October, but has continued to be a consultant for Gaetz and his office, he said Monday. 

The news conference was attended by local media and national outlets such as Associated Press and ABC News. The story has garnered a lot of national attention. 

TheNew York Times reported March 30 that the Department of Justice is investigating whether Gaetz broke several federal sex-trafficking laws and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. The investigation grew out of one on former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last year on a charge of sex trafficking. 

Gaetz responded to the reports, maintaining his innocence. Ina news release, he said his family had been “victims of an organized criminal extortion” involving a former DOJ official. 

“No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation,” he said. 

After further reports detailed Gaetz alleging paying women for sex and asking women to help find others who would be interested in having sex with him and his friends, the congressman’s office released another statement.

“Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex,” the statement said. “Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life.”

No charges have been brought against the congressman. 

Credit Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media

Nelson said the FBI members had asserted that he had previous knowledge of Gaetz’ involvement in alleged illegal activities. FBI told him that media had reached out to their office to assert that Nelson had previous knowledge of alleged illegal activity which was the reason for his departure. 

“I’m just here to state that nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “Neither I nor any other member of Congressman Gaetz’ staff had knowledge of illegal activities.”

Nelson said his departure late last year was planned. He now works to “continue supporting the military mission in a private capacity.” He’s currently working to create startup to bring a reutilized DOD super computer to Northwest Florida. 

“This baseless claim against me leaves me further convinced that the allegations against Congressman Gaetz are likewise fabricated and barely an attempt to discredit a very vocal conservative,” he added.

Nelson was asked about what evidence he may have to prove the congressman’s innocence, but Nelson said his statement was not about providing any degree of evidence. He also stated he never met Joel Greenberg nor had any knowledge of him until the reports last week. 

While the release announcing Nelson’s news conference came from the office of Congressman Gaetz, Nelson said he remains “loosely affiliated” to Gaetz and works with him and his office as an unpaid military adviser. Nelson hasn’t spoken to the congressman in months, he said. 

“I reached out to the congressman’s office to let them know the FBI had reached out and to ask if they had any other information about the media’s claims,” he said. 

Nelson has not had further contact with FBI since last week. And he has not been contacted by DOJ, he said. 

On Friday, Gaetz’ office announced that longtime aide and communications director Luke Ball parted ways. On Monday, one of the congressman’s staffers said she did not know if Ball would be making any statements to the press.

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.