Gaetz Military Adviser Comes to His Defense—Armed With No Facts
Air Force veteran Nathan Nelson says rumors that he quit Gaetz’s team because of shenanigans aren’t true, but sparked a visit from the FBI.
Embattled Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) deployed his “military adviser" Monday to deflect swirling allegations of sexual and financial misconduct—only for the former employee to admit he had no exculpatory evidence and reveal he had not even spoken to the congressman in months.
In fact, the press conference called by former Air Force Capt. Nathaniel Nelson did little except to reveal that the FBI grilled him about whether he knew of any law-breaking by Gaetz and about his own plan to bring to a military supercomputer to the Florida panhandle.
Gaetz’s team convened the event at the personal residence of Nelson—who seemed mainly interested in disputing rumors that he departed the Florida Republican’s office last fall because he had learned of claims of sex trafficking and misallocation of campaign funds. (Gaetz denies doing anything illegal).
Sitting in front of a knot of microphones, Nelson said rumors about his departure had prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to question him at his home last Wednesday.
“Neither I nor any other member of Congressman Gaetz’s staff had any knowledge of illegal activities,” Nelson said. “This baseless claim against me leaves me further convinced that the allegations against Congressman Gaetz are likewise fabricated, and merely an attempt to discredit a very vocal conservative.”
Yet when reporters pressed Nelson on whether he could refute the reports that Gaetz had inappropriate or illegal relationships with much younger women, the veteran admitted he could not.
“I’m not here to provide any degree of evidence in support of Congressman Gaetz, only to discredit these baseless allegations,” he said. “I don’t have any specific knowledge on the investigation or any of the facts that are involved with the investigation.”
Nelson, who was hired as Gaetz’s director of military affairs in January 2017, said he made a “planned departure” in October 2020 to enter the private sector. His LinkedIn now describes him as an inspirational speaker with his own ministry, but Nelson said he remains “loosely affiliated” with the Gaetz’s office as an unpaid adviser.
After the visit from the FBI, Nelson said he contacted Gaetz’s office. However, it does not appear that Nelson and the congressman have been close since he left the staff.
“You know, I haven’t had the opportunity to speak to Congressman Gaetz in several months,” Nelson said.
In a subsequent phone interview with The Daily Beast, Nelson said the pair of FBI special agents who came to his door asked him just two questions regarding Gaetz: Whether it was true that he left because he became aware of illegal activity, and whether he knew of any other staffers who might have such knowledge. The answer to both, Nelson insisted, was “no.”
He told The Daily Beast he then spent more than an hour explaining to the agents what he said was the real reason he left: an economic development project the goal of which is to obtain a government contract and a military supercomputer and provide training and security clearances to local engineers.
The entity behind this plan, Northwest Florida Supercomputer Research Group Inc., was incorporated at Nelson’s address in 2019—though Florida business records show it became inactive last September, shortly before Nelson exited Gaetz’s office. Nelson said he did not know why this had happened.
But he confirmed at the press conference that the company had sought funding from Triumph Gulf Coast, a state-controlled nonprofit led by Gaetz’s father that doles out money to communities that suffered damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill. Nelson said his business had dropped its application, and he told The Daily Beast he never had any conversations with the congressman or the elder Gaetz about this proposal.
Asked at the press conference whether he thought Gaetz had displayed poor character, regardless of whether a crime was committed, Nelson sidestepped any question of the congressman’s personal life.
“He's been a powerhouse in D.C., advocating for the interests of Northwest Florida. I believe that the degree of attention that he's brought to issues concerning Floridians is very, very important,” he said. “I believe any allegations of him being involved in illegal activities are baseless. He's spent the last four years drawing a tremendous amount of spotlight on himself and his activities, and I don't think that he would likewise be conducting anything illegal."
The Department of Justice has reportedly opened an investigation into whether Gaetz had a relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel—a probe sparked by a sex-trafficking case against one of his close Florida associates, Joel Greenberg.
In the interview with The Daily Beast, Nelson danced around questions about Gaetz’s personal merits, instead praising his comportment at public appearances and in the office.
“He’s always been super-professional,” he said. “I’ve always observed that what you see from him on television is the way he always was and communicated, you know, either in the office or when we worked together.”
Pressed further, Nelson described Gaetz as “a man of positive character.”
Gaetz denies having sexual contact with a minor and has painted himself as a victim. His father, former state Sen. Don Gaetz, was approached with a proposal to pony up $25 million to rescue ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson from Iran as a back-door way of making the son’s legal problems vanish. (Levinson’s own family has said there is credible evidence he is dead).
The mastermind behind the Levinson rescue plan is Bob Kent, who—like Nelson—served as an Air Force captain and intelligence officer. Nelson said he had no contact or familiarity with Kent or his endeavors.