A former staffer for embattled Rep. Matt Gaetz on Monday vehemently denied that his recent resignation from the congressman’s office proves he had knowledge or evidence that the Florida Republican had engaged in illegal activity, calling the claims “baseless.”
Nathan Nelson, who served as Mr. Gaetz’s military affairs director until earlier this year, held a press conference to rebut media-fueled rumors that he left because was knew the congressman had had sexual relations with a minor.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. Neither I nor any member of his staff had knowledge of illegal activities,” he said at a press conference in Florida, during which he also said he doubts that his former boss had committed the underlying crimes.
Despite Mr. Nelson having left the congressman’s office, he still serves as an informal adviser.
Mr. Nelson said at the Monday press conference that two FBI agents met with him last week and told him that members of the media had contacted them to claim that his departure was linked to a federal investigation.
The former aide said Monday that he told the agents that any such claims were “baseless” and that he had planned to leave his position before a Justice Department investigation into Mr. Gaetz became public knowledge.
Mr. Gaetz is under federal investigation over accusations of a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and of traveling with her across state lines, which, if true, would violate federal sex-trafficking laws regardless of the states’ varying ages of consent.
The congressman has denied the accusations and has not been charged with a crime.
Mr. Nelson said that because his departure was mischaracterized, he believes the claims against Mr. Gaetz are also untrue.
“This baseless claim against me leaves me further convinced that the allegations against Congressman Gaetz are likewise fabricated and an attempt to discredit a vocal conservative,” Mr. Nelson said.
But when pressed by reporters on whether he believed the accusations against Mr. Gaetz to be true, Mr. Nelson said he “does not personally have any information to discredit the probe.”
“I’m not here to provide any degree of evidence in support of Congressman Gaetz, only to discredit these allegations,” he said.
Mr. Nelson said he hasn’t talked with Mr. Gaetz in months. He added that he was not speaking out at the congressman’s request, even though the event was organized by his office.
The press conference came on the same day Mr. Gaetz published a fiery op-ed in The Washington Examiner, denying all allegations against him.
“First, I have never, ever paid for sex. And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year old,” he wrote.
He also accused “partisan crooks in [Attorney General] Merrick Garland’s Justice Department” of “perverting the truth and law” to go after him.