When the news broke that Matt Gaetz was under federal criminal investigation for underage sex trafficking, it occurred to us that Gaetz’s timing was rather bad. If the investigation had surfaced just a couple months earlier, Gaetz could have had Trump pardon him on the federal charges.
Now it turns out Matt Gaetz did ask Trump for a blanket preemptive pardon in January – but Trump rejected the request. The New York Times says that the Trump White House feared it would set a “bad precedent” if Gaetz was issued a blanket pardon for every federal crime he’s ever committed, without even naming what the crimes were. A few things stand out here.
First, it’s clear that for all of Gaetz’s loyalty to Trump, Trump showed no loyalty to Gaetz in the end. Second, if Gaetz was asking for a pardon, he must have been expecting to be criminally charged. Maybe this was because the Feds had already begun questioning his associates about his alleged sex trafficking, or maybe it was because Gaetz expected to get caught sooner or later.
This still doesn’t prove that Matt Gaetz is guilty. While accepting a pardon is legally considered an admission of guilt, requesting a pardon is not. But it does demonstrate that he was expecting to indicted on federal criminal charges. He’ll argue that he feared he would be framed for something once Trump was gone. But we suspect that the court of public opinion will largely view his pardon request as a confession. In other words, his pardon request just blew up in his face.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report