Last night the New York Times reported that Matt Gaetz sought a last minute blanket preemptive pardon from the Trump White House, but was rebuffed. At the time, we pointed out that whether this request helped legally establish Gaetz’s guilt or not, it was certainly going to make him look guilty in the court of public opinion.
Gaetz must be thinking along the same lines, because today he denied that he ever asked Trump for a pardon. Trump then also released a brief statement insisting that Gaetz never asked him for a pardon. But here’s the thing.
Politicians frequently use carefully worded statements to make it look like they’re denying something other than what they’re denying. For instance, the NY Times report said that Matt Gaetz asked the Trump White House for a pardon, and that Trump’s White House people then took the request to Trump, who rejected it upon the advice of counsel. In their statements, Gaetz and Trump aren’t actually denying that any of this happened. They’re merely denying that Gaetz picked up the phone and directly asked Trump for a pardon.
So these oddly specific denials do nothing to poke holes in the credibility of the NY Times report. Instead, these denials are merely going to end up forcing the issue. The only reason the NY Times got the story is that one or more people from the Trump White House, with first hand knowledge of the situation, told the NY Times that the pardon request happened. Now that Gaetz and Trump are questioning the credibility of that source, you can expect the source to leak additional details or evidence to help prove the allegation.
In other words, Matt Gaetz just made a bigger mess for himself. He’d do well to stop talking, and just hope that the criminal case against him somehow falls apart of its own accord. Instead he’s rapidly talking himself into a corner that could finish off his political career before he even faces the legal system.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report