The real reason Matt Gaetz hasn’t been indicted (yet)
Why hasn’t Matt Gaetz been indicted yet? We keep hearing pundit chatter about how it’s due to the “60 day rule” about not indicting a candidate close to election day – but that’s not what’s going on here. The DOJ has reportedly had three cooperating witnesses against him for several months. This means he could have been indicted months ago.
We’re currently 52 days from the election, which means the “60 day rule” didn’t even kick in until last week. All you have to do is look at a calendar to see that it’s not the reason Gaetz hasn’t been indicted. And if the DOJ had dropped the Gaetz case, it would have told him by now, and he’d be bragging about it nonstop. So the only reason for the DOJ to have sat on a ready-to-go Gaetz indictment for months is that it’s part of an ongoing probe involving bigger fish than Gaetz.
So who’s the bigger fish? Another Florida politician involved in the sex trafficking scandal? Or is it a bigger fish in a different aspect of the Gaetz probe? He’s being investigated for alleged misuse of campaign funds as well, along with other things. Gaetz is also likely a material witness to various crimes that Donald Trump committed, which is probably what the holdup is really about.
Keep in mind, Gaetz being indicted is not the ideal outcome here. The ideal outcome is Gaetz cutting a cooperation deal against Trump. The Feds are known to keep digging up criminal dirt on smaller fish to ratchet up the pressure for them to flip on bigger fish.
If Gaetz isn’t yet inclined to flip on Trump, and the DOJ indicts Gaetz anyway, then he’ll just double down and go to trial, which will take a couple years, and he’ll never be of any value in the case against Trump, because the Trump case will have long played out by the time Gaetz is convicted and realizes he should have flipped.
To get Gaetz to flip without going to trial first, the DOJ has to keep breaking him down. It has to keep piling on with more and more kinds of criminal dirt on him, until he concludes that he’s not going to beat all the different kinds of charges at trial, realizes he’s going to prison for a very long time, and cuts a deal.
“But you can’t give a deal to a sex offender!“ Yes you can. They gave a cooperation deal to Gaetz’s pal Joel Greenberg, who will still spend a very long time in prison for sex trafficking, but because he cooperated against others, will actually get out someday before he’s a senior citizen.
And that’s what the DOJ has to make sink in for Matt Gaetz. Gaetz’s life is over, at least for the next decade. Gaetz has to come around to accepting that nightmarish reality about his (lack of a) future, and decide that he’d rather lose a decade of his life behind bars, than lose two or three decades of his life.
In the meantime, as the DOJ presumably attempts to wear Gaetz down into flipping on bigger fish, who gives a damn what Gaetz is doing? He’d still be reelected in that far right district of his, even if he was already arrested and sitting in a cell awaiting trial. It’s that kind of district.
And even once Gaetz’s arrest inevitably prompts the House GOP to force him to resign just to make the headlines and headache go away, he’ll just be replaced in the House by another far right scumbag. Democrats aren’t magically flipping that district any time soon. You know this if you’re familiar at all with the math of how House races work.
“But it’s not fair that Gaetz gets to…” Fairness is not relevant to any of this. The criminal justice system doesn’t magically make things fair. It hands out punishment, as best it can, for unfair actions that can’t be undone. That’s all. And if that requires leaving Gaetz out there twisting until he realizes he needs to cut a deal against Trump, then that’s how it has to be done. It’s about getting the best possible result, never a matter of what theoretically should happen.
“But it sends a bad message that…” No it doesn’t. At some point the “but what about” crowd is just grasping at straws to try to reframe their personal impatience – which is never relevant to any criminal investigation – into something more judicious sounding.
The DOJ is trying to take down a former President who committed espionage, sedition, and domestic terrorism, along with his political allies who committed too many other kinds of crimes to list. Matt Gaetz is, obviously, a cog in that bigger picture. It’ll play out as it plays out, and it’ll take as long as it takes.
In any case, even as the doomsday pundits put on outrage-inducing performance art about how unfair the 60 day rule is, you need to keep in mind that the 60 day rule has nothing to do with why Gaetz hasn’t been indicted yet. Again, the 60 day period only started last week. Think it through.
By the way, if Gaetz tried to get with an underage girl tomorrow, the DOJ would arrest him tomorrow. Even the 60 day rule doesn’t apply to ongoing crimes. But as long as Gaetz isn’t attempting new crimes, the DOJ is smarter to keep wearing him down toward flipping on Trump.
This is about being smart and getting convictions. It’s not about instant gratification. Federal criminal investigations aren’t reality shows. They’re not for anyone’s entertainment. They move at a deliberate pace for a reason: it’s how you successfully take down slippery criminals. The DOJ has being doing this for a long time, and knows how cases are won and lost.
As for those who sit around angrily ranting about the fact that Matt Gaetz hasn’t been indicted yet, there are so many more productive ways to use that energy. Win or lose in November, Matt Gaetz won’t be in Congress for much longer. He’s done in this lifetime. He’s pathetic. He’s irrelevant. He’s going to prison. But there are a whole lot of other House Republicans who are eager to do terrible things if their party wins the majority in the midterms. Your energy is best focused on trying to help Democratic candidates in close competitive House races win in the midterms, not sitting back and critiquing the DOJ for the benefit of no one.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report