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Gaetz hires prominent New York lawyers amid federal probe

UPDATED: Fri., April 9, 2021

FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2021, file image from video, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks as the House reconvenes to debate the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Arizona, after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol.  (HOGP)
FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2021, file image from video, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks as the House reconvenes to debate the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Arizona, after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol. (HOGP)
By Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Rep. Matt Gaetz is retaining two prominent New York attorneys as he faces a Justice Department investigation into sex trafficking allegations involving underage girls.

Marc Mukasey and Isabelle Kirshner will lead the Florida Republican’s legal team, a Gaetz spokesperson said in a statement Friday.

“Matt has always been a fighter. A fighter for his constituents, a fighter for the country, and a fighter for the Constitution. He’s going to fight back against the unfounded allegations against him,” the statement said, adding that the lawyers “will take the fight to those trying to smear his name with falsehoods.”

Gaetz has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing. He has said he plans to keep his seat.

But a potentially ominous sign occurred in a Florida court on Thursday when it was revealed that a Gaetz associate, Joel Greenberg, a former county tax collector, is working toward a plea deal. Such a move could potentially open the door for Greenberg’s cooperation against Gaetz.

Prosecutors are examining whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they could not discuss details publicly. Greenberg entered a not guilty plea Friday through his attorney to a variety of charges ranging from child sex trafficking to fraud. A judge has set a May 15 deadline for Greenberg to reach a plea deal.

Mukasey is a former federal prosecutor in New York and is the son of Michael Mukasey, a former federal judge who served as attorney general in President George W. Bush’s administration. He has represented former President Donald Trump’s family business, the Trump Organization, in tax-related investigations in New York, and defended Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL whose war crimes case caught Trump’s attention. Gallagher was acquitted of killing a wounded war prisoner in Iraq.

He also represented the CEO of a social media company during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Kirshner represented former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned his position after being accused of physically assaulting women. No charges were filed against Schneiderman after an investigation by a special prosecutor. Kirshner’s law firm has represented several lawyers accused of criminal wrongdoing.

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