At this point it’s fairly obvious that Matt Gaetz will be indicted and arrested. The grand jury only has to conclude that there is enough evidence to warrant a trial, and the publicly available evidence alone will likely be more than enough to meet that threshold. The more relevant question is whether Gaetz will be convicted at trial, and what he’ll be convicted on. That equation has now changed significantly.
Gaetz is reportedly being criminally investigated for everything from underage sex trafficking, to prostitution, to fake IDs, to misusing campaign funds to pay for it all. That last one, if proven, might be the one that’s most likely to take Gaetz down – because it’s the most straightforward and easily proven of the bunch. But now there’s another criminal charge in play.
As of last night we know that Gaetz and his ex-girlfriend allegedly worked together to try to influence a witness in the case, and that his ex-girlfriend is now working with the Feds to try to nail Gaetz for it. If this can be proven true, then Gaetz will be charged and convicted for obstruction of justice, or witness tampering, or some similar federal crime, and that’s a big deal. Why?
Imagine you’re on a trial jury, and Matt Gaetz’s lawyers are trying to generate some kind of sliver of reasonable doubt as to whether he knew the girl he had sex with was underage, or whether she really was underage at the time, or whatever the defense’s argument ends up being. Now imagine hearing testimony that after Gaetz realized he was in trouble, he tried to pressure a witness into not coming forward. That doesn’t legally prove that he’s guilty of the underlying crime. But if the jury is trying to decide whether there’s any reasonable doubt about Gaetz’s guilt, hearing about the witness tampering could slam the door shut on the reasonable doubt argument.
In addition, even if the jury concludes there isn’t proof of any of the underlying charges, and decides to acquit on all of them, the jury would still convict Gaetz and send him to prison if it decides that there is proof of witness tampering or obstruction. The same goes for if the jury decides that there is proof that Gaetz misused campaign funds. He’ll go to prison simply for using campaign funds for anything outside of campaign purposes; it doesn’t have to be proven that the thing he used the campaign funds for was a crime in its own right.
It’s also worth pointing out that if the Feds have gotten so deep into Matt Gaetz’s life that they’ve even busted him for tampering with witnesses, it suggests that they have an evidence trail for just about everything he’s done. It’s an ugly sign for Gaetz, whose only remaining faint hope of having a life depends on convincing the jury that there’s no proof of any of the multitude of crimes he’s about to be charges with. It also points to the criminal case being in such an advanced stage that Gaetz’s indictment and arrest – though they won’t come quite as quickly as anyone would like – can’t be far off.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report