Tracking Matt Gaetz: The Florida Man’s Life Since He Started Getting Heat From The Feds

Matt Gaetz and Joel Greenberg (TPM Illustration/Seminole County Tax Collector's Office/Getty Images)
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April 2, 2021 5:23 p.m.

Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-FL) political career has been imploding for longer than we knew.

It really began with the June 2020 indictment of Joel Greenberg, a buddy of his and associate in ways that we’re still coming to fully understand. But a fuller picture of the charges that Gaetz may face has not become clear until this past week, when the New York Times broke the revelation that federal prosecutors are investigating Gaetz over potential sex-trafficking charges relating to an alleged relationship with a 17 year old.

Gaetz denies the allegations, and has yet to be charged with any wrongdoing.

A TPM review of Gaetz’s behavior since June 2020 reveals significant changes in his tumultuous personal life. But what didn’t change was former President Trump’s happiness to keep him around for political purposes, even as a top Justice Department official tried to shy away from the Florida Republican.

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Below are key takeaways from Gaetz’s activities since the federal investigation began.

A Frequent Part Of Trump’s Political Operation

Per the Daily Beast, the investigation began as early as January 2020, when Secret Service agents became aware that Gaetz was accompanying Greenberg to a Florida panhandle tax facility.

But, based on what we know at the moment, the earliest that then-Attorney General Bill Barr became aware of the investigation was after the June 2020 indictment of Greenberg, a Seminole county tax collector who reportedly abused the powers of his job in a multitude of ways and is now under indictment for sex trafficking. Politico reported that Barr began to be briefed in summer 2020 on the probe, and, from that point, began to try to dodge Gaetz whenever he could.

It’s not clear whether the Secret Service or Barr ever informed Trump of the probe. But in any case, the former president and other senior White House officials do not appear to have taken steps to avoid the shady man child:

  • July 24, 2020: Trump signs an executive order on prescription drug pricing. Gaetz appears at the signing ceremony.
  • Aug. 24, 2020: Gaetz delivers an address at Republican National Convention. “You cannot cancel a culture that loves its heroes,” Gaetz proclaimed. “We know that to make America great again, we must first make something of ourselves.”
  • Oct. 26, 2020: Gaetz and Trump appear onstage at a rally in Ocala, Florida. Trump accidentally refers to Gaetz as “Rick Gates.”
  • Oct. 23, 2020: Gaetz appears at a rally with Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Pensacola. “We don’t build walls because we hate the people on the outside, we build walls because we love the people on the inside,” Gaetz intoned.
  • Dec. 21, 2020: Trump holds a meeting with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and members of Congress to support his bid to overturn the 2020 election. Gaetz is present.
  • January 28, 2021: Gaetz says that he spoke to Trump and got his help writing a speech to denounce Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) for voting yes on impeachment at an event in Wyoming.

The Florida Man Who Started It All

The crux of the case seems to be Gaetz’s close friendship with Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector with perhaps the longest and wildest rap sheet TPM has ever seen. Their close relationship goes back years, and spans the period during which Greenberg is accused of trafficking a minor. The Gaetz probe, per the Times, is an outgrowth of the investigation into Greenberg.

  • June 2017: In an interview with WFLA News, Gaetz says Greenberg should run for Congress.
  • July 8, 2017: Greenberg tweets a picture with Gaetz and Roger Stone.
  • Late 2017/early 2018: Greenberg brings Gaetz to the Seminole County tax collector’s office and shows him around, according to multiple reports.
  • January 2019: Facebook video shows Gaetz and Greenberg with others celebrating DeSantis’ directive to end the ban on smoking marijuana.
  • June 2019: Greenberg’s wife posts to Facebook a slew of pictures of Greenberg and Gaetz together in D.C., including some at the White House with Donald and Melania Trump, and at the Capitol.
  • June 22, 2019: Greenberg tweets a picture with Gaetz in front of the White House.
  • July 4, 2019: State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) gets voicemail from Greenberg who handed the phone over to Gaetz who told her she was the future of the Democratic Party. Most of Trump’s allies were attending Trump’s “Salute to America” in D.C., but these two were hanging out in Florida.
  • June 9, 2020: Gaetz is the first to contribute to Greenberg’s reelection campaign, with $1,000.
  • June 23, 2020: Greenberg, who was allegedly involved in an array of criminal behavior, is arrested.
  • August 19, 2020: Greenberg is indicted for alleged sex trafficking of a child. The indictment alleged that Greenberg engaged in this behavior between May and November of 2017.

Gaetz’s Oftentimes Confusing, Rapidly Changing Personal Life

Meanwhile, the hallmark of Gaetz’s personal life has been his theatrical yanking back of the curtain to publicly reveal the people who he says are most important to him — people that nobody had ever heard of before.

That goes for the individual he describes as his son, Nestor Galban, who Gaetz revealed the existence of as a point of debate over children of color during a House committee argument, and his fiancée, Ginger Luckey.

  • August 30, 2018: Palmer Luckey, brother of Gaetz’s future fiancée and tech millionaire, donates $2,700 to Gaetz’s reelection campaign.
  • Early March-ish 2020: Luckey has declined to say when she and Gaetz met, but tells the Daily Mail that the day after they did, Gaetz took her to Kimberly Guilfoyle’s birthday party. Guilfoyle’s birthday is March 9. And on March 8, Trump threw a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, which Luckey said her mom “dragged her” to.
  • June 17, 2020: Gaetz and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) get into a fight at a House Judiciary Committee hearing over the wellbeing of Black children, specifically in regards to policing. “Are you suggesting that you’re certain that none of us have non-white children?” Gaetz asked, after Richmond made comments about being the father of Black children.
  • June 18, 2020: Gaetz announces the existence of a 19-year-old who he describes as his “son,” Nestor, on Twitter. People publishes a story in which Gaetz reveals that Nestor Galban is the brother of his ex-girlfriend. Galban lived with Gaetz off and on, the congressman said, starting when Galban was 12, after he immigrated from Cuba. Gaetz says that he never formally adopted Galban, and that Galban’s biological dad is alive. Pictures started resurfacing of social media posts in which Gaetz referred to Galban as his “helper” in 2017 and a “local student” in 2016.
  • September 30, 2020: Gaetz says Galban has become a U.S. citizen.
  • December 10, 2020: Gaetz posts a picture with Luckey under a painting of Ronald Reagan at the White House. The two are not publicly known to be dating at this time.
  • December 30, 2020: Fox News’ Judge Jeannine Pirro breaks the news that Gaetz has proposed to Luckey in a tweet with a picture of the two. Gaetz retweets the photo, thanking Pirro for “sharing the moment” with them. Gina Loudon, a rightwing radio personality, tweets out a video of the proposal from “the most beautiful place in the world,” Mar-a-Lago.
  • December 31, 2020: Daily Mail publishes a story in which Luckey says that she saw the proposal coming, has been Gaetz’s “travel buddy” since her company went remote in March and that they’ll get married sometime between now and 2024.
  • March 22, 2021: Gaetz prompts controversy when he says he let Galban go on spring break in Panama City, which at the time was experiencing a severe COVID-19 outbreak.
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