This morning the Washington Post published an article titled “Career prosecutors recommend no charges for Gaetz in sex-trafficking probe.” This promptly set off a wave of doomsday hysteria about how the DOJ was supposedly allowing Gaetz to get away with it all.
But you didn’t have to get very far into the WaPo article for the whole thing to starting sound rather…strange. The sourcing seemed to have been characterized using tricky wording. Nothing in the article seemed to be in line with how the DOJ actually does things. And other previously reported aspects of the Gaetz case, which are incompatible with today’s new reporting, were simply ignored by the WaPo article. Now even the article’s author appears to be casting doubt on his own sourcing.
The first red flag in the WaPo article is that it claims “career prosecutors” have advised their DOJ superiors against indicting Gaetz. When a major news outlet runs with an unnamed inside source, it always describes the source in the most important-sounding and relevant-sounding manner possible. If the source were a DOJ official, the article would refer to its source as a “DOJ official.” If the source were a prosecutor actually handling the Gaetz case, the article would specify as much, in order to underscore the legitimacy of the sourcing. In contrast, “career prosecutors” is a generic phrase that could refer to anyone in the DOJ who has spent their career working as a prosecutors. It could be the lowest-level prosecutors in the building, who have no connection to the Gaetz case.
The second red flag in this article is that the source goes on to question the viability of a key witness, Joel Greenberg, due to his status as a confessed underage sex trafficker. This makes no sense. Greenberg cut a cooperation deal last year, and the DOJ keeps signing off on delaying his sentencing so he can get full credit for his cooperation. If the DOJ prosecutors in this case thought Greenberg’s status as a sex offender made him non-viable as a witness, they wouldn’t have been using him as a witness all this time.
In fact the DOJ indicted a Florida Republican political operative just a couple days ago as part of the Greenberg probe. It’s difficult to imagine any DOJ prosecutor involved with the Greenberg case telling the media that Greenberg is a non-viable witness while using Greenberg as a witness in various ongoing investigations and prosecutions.
The WaPo article also claims that Matt Gaetz’s “ex-girlfriend” has turned out to be a non-viable witness. But the article then refers to her as having been underage at the time she was with Gaetz. This suggests that that article may be confusing two different people in this scandal: the then-underage girl that Gaetz allegedly had sex with, and the Gaetz ex-girlfriend who was given immunity several months ago after having allegedly conspired with Gaetz to obstruct the probe. These two women are not the same person, yet the WaPo article seems to present them as if they are the same person. It’s also beyond bizarre to think that any DOJ prosecutor working on the Gaetz case would publicly cast doubt on the legitimacy of an alleged victim who was underage at the time of the alleged crime.
Additionally, various major news outlets have previously reported that Gaetz is also under criminal investigation on alleged charges ranging from misuse of campaign funds, to fake IDs, to the aforementioned obstruction of justice. These kinds of charges wouldn’t go away simply because the underlying sex crime charge fell through. Campaign finance violations, for instance, would be proven with documentation and wouldn’t require someone like Greenberg to be considered a viable witness. Yet the WaPo article simply ignores the existence of the broader alleged Gaetz crimes being investigated, as if they never existed.
On top of all this, the DOJ has a policy of not making prosecutorial moves or announcements, within sixty days of an election, about candidates who are on the ballot. In fact Merrick Garland recently issued a memo reminding the DOJ of this policy. But this WaPo leak would also seemingly be a violation of that sixty day policy, because it’s not even a charging decision, it’s merely a leak about “career prosecutors” telling their bosses that they don’t think Gaetz should be charged. It’s precisely the kind of thing that Garland just told the DOJ not to do – so it further raises questions as to whether the sources for this WaPo article are serious people.
If the WaPo article didn’t fall apart enough in its own right, Joel Greenberg’s attorney then piled on by saying that this is not in line with anything he’s heard from the DOJ, and that he “would be surprised by such a decision.” We can’t simply take Greenberg at his word. But given all the red flags the WaPo article raises in its own right, Greenberg’s attorney’s statement does cast further doubt on the legitimacy of what’s being reported here.
Then things got even stranger, when the author of the WaPo article himself seemed to cast doubt on his own sourcing. Allison Gill of the Mueller She Wrote podcast tweeted a link to the WaPo article and added that she had “serious skepticism about the sources in this reporting.” The author of the WaPo article then retweeted Gill, appearing to acknowledge that his own sourcing could be off. Retweets famously aren’t endorsements. But why else would the author of the article retweet something like this?
It’s becoming more difficult by the hour to believe that that this WaPo article is accurate, and that the DOJ prosectors handling the Matt Gaetz case have indeed concluded that he shouldn’t be indicted. At this point the bigger story is how this severely flawed, questionably sourced, and seemingly clueless WaPo article came into existence – and why its own author is now retweeting people who are questioning his sourcing.
It’ll be worth watching to see what happens next. If this reporting is false or misleading, the DOJ will want to push back against it, but will also have to try to do so within the bounds of the sixty day rule. For that reason we might be stuck with this flawed WaPo article until after the November elections, at which point we might get the real story. But what we just read in the WaPo doesn’t seem to have much correlation with whatever might really be going on. Stay tuned.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report