If this is the case, it is in clear violation of sex-trafficking laws, which state it is "illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value".
So far, no charges have been brought against him.
The investigation began in the final months of former President Donald Trump's administration under Attorney General William Barr and was part of an investigation into Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in northern Florida, who was indicted a year ago on charges of sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people, including one underage girl, in exchange for sex. Trump administration officials were notified of the probe, the report says.
"You know, providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you're dating who are of legal age is not a crime", said Gaetz. "I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward".
Gaetz said in an interview that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that they were told he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation.More news: Ghislaine Maxwell faces two new charges in sex crimes case
He showed Axios screenshots of text messages and emails in the alleged extortion scheme, which he said was being run by a former DOJ employee.
"The allegations against me are as searing as they are false", Gaetz added in a phone interview with Axios.
Gaetz went on to name the DOJ official he claimed was trying to extort him as David McGee, a former DOJ prosecutor. He noted that he had been told "very little" about the DOJ probe and that he was "absolutely" certain (his word) that "none of the women were underage" (Axios's words).
McGee told The Daily Beast Gaetz's assertions were "completely, totally false". "And she was actually threatened by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told that if she wouldn't cop to the fact that somehow I was involved in some pay-for-play scheme that she could face trouble."He added: "And so I do believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to smear me, you know". I've been, you know, generous as a partner.
Earlier in the day, it was reported that Gaetz has privately told confidants that he is seriously considering not seeking re-election and potentially leaving Congress early for a position at conservative network Newsmax. The sources said the Gaetz investigation was connected to the investigation of Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Florida who was indicted past year on charges including sex trafficking of a child.More news: Brisbane goes into a snap three-day lockdown
In December 2017, Gaetz was also the only House lawmaker to vote against a bill that allotted more money to the federal government to fight human trafficking. He said that his rationale for doing so was because he believed in abolishing federal agencies.
"My father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI's direction to catch these criminals".
Investigators are said to be looking into whether Gaetz violated federal sex-trafficking laws.
"No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation", he said.More news: Fauci says COVID-19 vaccines are 'best decision I've ever made'