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How Gaetz climbed the ranks in Trump's Washington

April 8, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 20.8%. 2 min read.

FILE -- Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 8, 2019. The Justice Department is said to be investigating the congressman's encounters with women recruited online for sex and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Rep. Matt Gaetz, attempting to stare down a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations, is reaching for a familiar, in-your-face strategy perfected over the last four years by the man who fueled his unconventional rise, former President Donald Trump.

(CNN)Rep. Matt Gaetz, attempting to stare down a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations, is reaching for a familiar, in-your-face strategy perfected over the last four years by the man who fueled his unconventional rise, former President Donald Trump.

Gaetz's response to the FBI investigation into whether the GOP congressman broke federal sex trafficking laws and had a relationship with a 17-year-old girl is reminiscent of the combative path that Gaetz has taken from the Florida statehouse to the US Capitol as he became one Trump's congressional allies.

The son of a prominent Florida politician and businessman, Gaetz arrived in Washington in 2017 along with Trump and quickly focused his attention not on forging relationships in Congress and passing legislation but on building his personal brand, going on television and getting close to the new president.

After The New York Times, CNN and others reported this week that Gaetz sought a preemptive pardon -- a spokesperson for Gaetz denied to the Times it was related to the Justice Department investigation -- Trump issued a terse statement.

"Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon," Trump said.

Gaetz even said he took a call from Trump while "in the throes of passion. "

As the investigation surrounding Trump and Russia unfolded during Gaetz' first year in office, Gaetz was part of a group of vocal Republicans attacking then-special counsel Robert Mueller, winning his good graces with Trump.

A year later, Gaetz threatened Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen ahead of his 2019 House testimony, tweeting, "Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends?

"They are our warriors," Trump said of Gaetz and other House members at a September 2020 rally in Jupiter, Florida.

Behind the scenes in the House, Gaetz didn't make many friends in the House Republican conference, while the backbench congressman became one of the most regular lawmakers to appear on Fox News, going around the traditional power structures on Capitol Hill.

When House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming voted to impeach Trump in January, Gaetz didn't just criticize her -- he traveled to Wyoming to hold a rally denouncing her.

"He understands the nature of the Republican Party, loves the base of the Republican Party, he listens to them," said Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a congressional candidate who did not overlap with Gaetz in the Florida statehouse but has become friends with him.

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