Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)’s supposed alibi for the DOJ probe into sex-trafficking allegations brings the bombastic Trump supporter into the bizarre, grifter-filled world of the hunt for missing FBI agent Robert Levinson.
The new information, reported by the Washington Post on Wednesday, buttresses the notion that information about an investigation into Gaetz had been floating around the Florida panhandle for at least a few weeks before the New York Times broke the story on Tuesday.
But in this example, it brings in a group of people claiming to be devoted to the cause of returning Levinson to the U.S. Matt Gaetz and his father, Don, have described a story in which these individuals heard the younger Gaetz was in trouble, knew that he had family money, and saw an opportunity where the sane did not: allegedly blackmailing Gaetz into financing a last-ditch effort to rescue Levinson.
The alleged scheme introduces a cast of characters and a general sense of absurdity which, some former FBI agents pointed out to TPM on Wednesday, heightens questions about why the Gaetz family took the supposed plot so seriously.
Reporting from the Washington Examiner suggests that the plot centers around a former Air Force Captain named Bob Kent.
Kent reportedly approached Don Gaetz, the congressman’s father, with an offer to finance a rescue mission to retrieve Levinson from Iran. The U.S. government is currently offering a $25 million reward for Levinson’s return, though he is believed to be dead. The Gaetz payment would supposedly be repaid through the U.S. government reward.
Kent himself has a Linkedin profile designed to leave you with the impression that he is some kind of high-level operator in the world of intelligence and subterfuge. He describes his role in the Air Force as a “special tactics/intelligence officer,” and says on the profile that he has spent time working in the middle east, also on intelligence issues.
But a Newsweek profile of the hunt for Levinson by Jeff Stein suggests that Kent is part of a group of people comprised of those who have become “obsessed” with the Levinson case and those who are seeking to cash in on the big federal reward available for his return. The profile describes Kent somewhat frantically trying to secure funds for Levinson’s release.
Stein wrote in a Wednesday night blog post that much of the evidence that Kent had gathered of Levinson’s whereabouts were a “mix of clumsy fabrications and authentic papers of unconfirmed provenance.”
But Kent did have a tie to someone apparently more serious: David McGee, a federal prosecutor during the Clinton era and a friend of Levinson’s who has been spearheading civil litigation around his disappearance.
McGee has strenuously denied any involvement in an extortion scheme, and his law firm referred to any such allegations as “defamatory.”
And the extent of McGee’s involvement in the plan remains unclear. One associate in the plan, a panhandle ex-convict named Stephen Alford, registered a company using McGee’s law firm.
A memo of unknown provenance obtained by the Washington Examiner also says that the $25 million was to be deposited in a trust account controlled by McGee.
The Gaetzs have said they have evidence that the Levinson offer triggered the extortion investigation, for which Don Gaetz claimed to Politico that he wore a wire.