The federal investigation into Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz is focused on allegations that the junior congressman had a sexual relationship with at least one minor, and is scrutinizing the Republican's conduct not only in Florida but outside the politician's home state too, three sources familiar with the investigation tell ABC News.
The investigation, first reported by the New York Times Tuesday and confirmed by ABC News, has sent shockwaves through Republican circles, particularly among close associates of former President Donald Trump, who considered Gaetz a staunch ally and loyal friend.
"I have not had a relationship with a 17-year-old. That is totally false," Gaetz told Fox News' Tucker Carlson in an interview Tuesday night. "That is false and records will bear that out to be false."
Sources told ABC News the investigation has been going on for months and began during the Trump administration. Former Attorney General Bill Barr was briefed on the investigation's progress several times, the sources said.
One source told ABC News that federal authorities have already interviewed multiple witnesses as part of their probe.
Gaetz has reportedly told confidants he is considering retiring from Congress and possibly joining the right-wing media outlet Newsmax, according to an Axios report earlier Tuesday.
Yet within the last several weeks Gaetz started reaching out to prominent attorneys, according to one source. The source said that one of the attorneys Gaetz asked to represent him was Washington attorney Bill Burck, who represented Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Don McGahn during the Mueller probe. Burck turned down the case, according to a person familiar with the decision.
On Fox News Tuesday night, Gaetz appeared to confirm the investigation when he said he was approached by someone who claimed he could "make this investigation go away."
"There was a demand for money in exchange for a commitment that he could make this investigation go away along with his co-conspirators," Gaetz said, identifying the alleged extortionist as former DOJ official David McGee.
The law offices of Beggs & Lane, where McGee is now employed as a private attorney, denied those allegations in a statement Wednesday night.
"The allegation by the Congressman is both false and defamatory," the statement read. "Mr. McGee was the Chief Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida 25 years ago. During his tenure with the Department of Justice his reputation for integrity and ethical conduct was impeccable. It has remained impeccable throughout his 25 year tenure with our firm. While he was with the DOJ he would never have entertained a scheme such as what Congressman Gaetz suggests nor would he today. Unsubstantiated allegations do not change that fact."
One source familiar with the matter confirmed that the FBI and Justice Department are separately investigating Gaetz's allegations that he was the target of an extortion attempt.