Then-Attorney General Bill Barr went to great lengths to avoid being seen near Rep. Matt Gaetz after he was alerted to the federal probe into the Florida Republican’s alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, according to Politico. Barr is said to have gotten several briefings about the investigation, at least partly to ensure that the then-attorney general didn’t inadvertently find himself standing next to Gaetz at any public events, according to one source cited by Politico. The Department of Justice reportedly went so far as to cancel a planned appearance by Barr at a meet-and-greet with House Republicans after it was learned that Gaetz would be in attendance.
Gaetz has repeatedly claimed to be the victim of a wild, $25 million extortion scheme since The New York Times broke the news late Tuesday that federal prosecutors were looking into whether he violated sex trafficking laws by allegedly paying the unnamed teen to travel with him. He has denied having relations with the teen and both he and his father have blamed the allegations on an “organized criminal extortion” scheme, one they say was hatched by a former intelligence officer and a Florida lawyer who tried to rope Gaetz in on a plan to rescue an American hostage in Iran long believed to be dead.