CREW is suing the Department of Justice for records related to the now-closed criminal investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz, including the DOJ’s decision not to charge Gaetz despite reports suggesting an abundance of evidence that he likely violated sex-trafficking laws, and the conviction of his associate on similar charges. CREW also challenges the legality of the Department of Justice’s policy of categorically denying FOIA requests for records relating to investigations of public officials.

The lawsuit follows the DOJ’s refusal to release records relating to their investigation of Rep. Gaetz in response to CREW requests for information, as well as a long history of the agency issuing blanket denials of requests for records relating to investigations of public officials, despite a federal appeals court ruling that clearly prohibits such denials. The public deserves to know whether the decision not to prosecute Gaetz was motivated by political considerations or anything other than the sufficiency of evidence against him, and should not be forced to sue for records every time they seek transparency on investigations of public officials. 

The DOJ began its investigation into Gaetz in 2020, focusing on allegations of obstruction of justice and violations of federal sex trafficking laws. Gaetz’s associate Joel Greenberg pled guilty to underage sex trafficking and reportedly provided potentially incriminating information about Gaetz’s involvement to investigators. Gaetz also reportedly asked then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for a preemptive pardon from Trump. In February 2023, the DOJ informed Gaetz that the department would not bring charges against him.

It is of public interest to understand why a member of Congress was not charged with any crime despite public reporting that suggested that potential crimes had been committed. Transparency around high-profile investigations, including any failures to properly investigate Gaetz, is both required by law and urgently needed.

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