- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The man accused of trying to extort Rep. Matt Gaetz admitted Monday that he asked for money, but insists he wasn’t trying to blackmail the embattled Florida Republican.

Bob Kent, an ex-Air Force intelligence officer, acknowledged that he did ask Mr. Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, for money last month.

In an interview with Sirius Radio host Michael Smerconish, Mr. Kent said the funds were to pay for an effort to return Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007. Although the FBI agent is believed to be dead, Mr. Kent says he has video evidence that Levinson is alive and being held captive.

Mr. Kent said he met with Don Gaetz, a former Florida politician on March 17 and told him he was aware of his son’s “legal issues.” Helping to rescue Levinson, he said, would “generate goodwill.”

The Justice Department is investigating allegations that Mr. Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and violated federal sex trafficking laws.

The congressman has vehemently denied the allegations and has not been charged with a crime.

Mr. Kent maintained that he asked for the money as a way to generate good publicity for Matt Gaetz, and it was not a shakedown. At the time of the meeting with Don Gaetz, the charges against the congressman were not publicly known.

“I explained that in no way am I trying to extort him and if he decides to help us, he’ll never hear from me again,” Mr. Kent said in the interview.

“Matt Gaetz is in need of good publicity and I’m in need of $25 million to save Robert Levinson,” he said.

Mr. Kent forcefully denied allegations of a blackmail plot.

“I never threatened the man — matter of fact, it was the opposite: I told him if he decides not to help us, he’ll never hear from me again,” Mr. Kent said. “I can’t help how it sounds.”

Documents published by The Washington Examiner, however, revealed that Mr. Kent texted Don Gaetz saying he had a plan to make his son’s “future legal and political problems go away.”

He also gave Don Gaetz a document called “Project Homecoming” that detailed the investigation into Mr. Gaetz and claimed the FBI had photos of the congressman in a “sexual orgy with underage prostitutes,” according to the Examiner.

Mr. Kent told Mr. Smerconish that if Don Gaetz paid the $25 million, the transfer of funds would have been “aboveboard” with the money being funneled through David McGee, a former Justice Department official.

Mr. McGee has also been accused of trying to extort the Gaetz family, a charge that he denies.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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