Mr. Gaetz, who gained a national profile in recent years as a prominent supporter of President Donald J. Trump, has denied that he paid for sex. The investigation into him grew out of Mr. Greenberg’s case.
“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Mr. Scheller told reporters outside the courthouse after the hearing.
The Justice Department is investigating whether Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, broke federal sex trafficking laws.
- Mr. Gaetz, 38, was elected to Congress in 2016 and became one of President Donald J. Trump’s most outspoken advocates. The inquiry focuses on the representative’s relationships with women recruited online for sex and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl.
- The investigation includes an examination of payments to women. Investigators believe that he paid for sex with a number of women he met through Joel Greenberg — a former Florida tax collector who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge, among other offenses — people close to the investigation told The New York Times. Mr. Greenberg is expected to plead guilty to federal charges, an indication that he could cooperate as a witness against Mr. Gaetz.
- The representative has repeatedly dismissed the investigation as politically motivated and unfounded, defending his past relationships with women. So far, he has not been charged and the extent of his criminal exposure remains unclear. The investigation is continuing.
- Mr. Gaetz has claimed that his family is being targeted by two men trying to extort it for $25 million in exchange for making potential legal problems “go away.” The men have denied that they were trying to extort the Gaetzes.
- In the final weeks of the Trump administration, Mr. Gaetz asked the White House for a blanket pardon for any criminal conduct he had ever committed, people familiar with his request have said. Trump aides vetoed that idea, and Mr. Trump has said Mr. Gaetz never asked him directly for a pardon.
- Mr. Gaetz told The Times that he had no plans to resign from Congress. But as the investigation continues, he could face pressure either to step down or temporarily relinquish his spot on the House committee that oversees the Justice Department.
Mr. Gaetz did not immediately address the hearing, but his congressional office issued a statement on Thursday from women who work for him extolling his respect for them. “At no time has any one of us experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect,” said the statement, which included no individual aides’ names.
Mr. Greenberg ran for tax collector in Seminole County, northeast of Orlando, in 2016, depicting himself as a crusading outsider who could restore integrity to an office that had been corrupted by career politicians.
After Mr. Greenberg won, he began acting offensively and outlandishly in his position, punishing those who worked for him who supported his rival in the election and using his position to enrich himself.
But in June, he was indicted on federal charges that he stalked a candidate running against him in his re-election bid. The authorities said that Mr. Greenberg sent an anonymous letter to the school where the rival worked that falsely accused him of having a sexual relationship with a student, and that Mr. Greenberg set up social media accounts that made similar claims. Since, Mr. Greenberg has been indicted on corruption and other charges.
In August, Mr. Greenberg was indicted on a count of sex trafficking a 17-year-old in 2017. Around the time of the indictment, the Justice Department began investigating Mr. Gaetz’s ties to the same girl.
In the final weeks of the Trump administration, Mr. Gaetz asked the White House for a blanket pardon for any criminal conduct he had ever committed, people familiar with his request have said. Trump aides vetoed that idea, and Mr. Trump has said Mr. Gaetz never asked him directly for a pardon.
Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting from Washington.