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Wake Up To Politics - April 9, 2021

Good morning! It’s Friday, April 9, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 578 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,306 days away.

Congratulations on (almost) making it through another week. Before I dive into the news, I wanted to share some more details about the exclusive Zoom meeting I announced a few weeks ago as part of the new referral program.

The meeting will take place on Sunday, April 25, at 6 p.m. Eastern Time and will feature a conversation between Wake Up To Politics legal contributor Anna Salvatore and myself. We’ll chat for a bit about the latest news and then take questions from readers. How can you join the meeting? Use your unique referral link below to share the newsletter — if three of your friends sign up using your link, you’ll get access to the meeting.

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Gaetzgate gets worse

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has not had a good week. First, the New York Times reported that the Justice Department was investigating whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him — a potential violation of federal sex tracking laws.

Then, a series of unfavorable stories started popping up about Gaetz: He showed up photos and videos of nude women he said he slept with to fellow lawmakers on the House floor, CNN reported. As a Florida state legislator, he and other male colleagues had created a “points system” to score their sexual conquests, according to ABC News. His congressional office was a “sometimes uncomfortable environment,” per Business Insider. He even sought a blanket pardon from former President Donald Trump, the Times added.

Gaetz, a three-term congressman who gained notoriety for his close relationship with Trump, has acknowledged the investigation but denied that he had a relationship with a minor. “The person doesn’t exist. I have not had a relationship with a 17-year-old,” he said in a Fox News interview. “That is totally false.”

But the bad news keeps on coming for the Florida pol. On Thursday alone:

  • A close friend of Gaetz, former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, indicated that he is likely cooperating with federal prosecutors. The sprawling inquiry into Greenberg, who has been charged with sex trafficking, was reportedly what led investigators to Gaetz. “I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Greenberg’s attorney told reporters Thursday, as the defendant signaled plans to plead guilty and cooperate as a witness against Gaetz.
  • The Daily Beast reported on a string of Venmo payments between Gaetz and Greenberg. According to the report, Gaetz sent Greenberg two payments totaling $900 in May 2018; on the same night, Greenberg sent payments totaling the same amount to three young women. In the memo field for one of his payments, Gaetz told Greenberg to “hit up ___,” using a nickname for one of the 18-year-old women Greenberg would later pay.
  • CBS News reported on a trip to the Bahamas that Gaetz took in late 2018 or early 2019. According to the network, female escorts were present during the trip and “investigators are trying to determine if the escorts were illegally trafficked across state or international lines for the purpose of sex with the congressman.”
  • The New York Times reported that a second top aide to Gaetz, his legislative director, had abruptly resigned. Gaetz’s communications director also quit last week.

When Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) sparked a series of controversies in January, I wrote that she was attempting to implement the “Trump playbook” for crisis management: never apologize, and just keep pushing forward. In Greene’s case, that strategy has mostly worked: reports of her past comments, which once dominated the news, have all but fallen away.

Now Gaetz is attempting to follow her lead — but he is finding few defenders even within his own party. Most Republicans have remained silent on the allegations; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said last week that if the accusations “come out to be true,” Gaetz would be removed from the House Judiciary Committee, a step the GOP refused to take for Greene. (Notably, Greene and Trump are two of the few Republicans who have defended Gaetz.)

On Thursday night, as the latest crop of eyebrow-raising stories came out about Gaetz, the first Republican congressman called for him to step down. “Matt Gaetz needs to resign,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a noted Trump critic, tweeted.

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The Rundown

WORLD: Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband and the longest-serving royal consort in British history, died this morning at age 99.

BORDER: U.S. authorities took 172,331 migrants into custody in March, more than any month in almost two decades, according to statistics released on Thursday. That total included 18,890 unaccompanied minors, an all-time monthly high.

  • According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration is spending at least $60 million a week to care for the migrant teens and children in U.S. custody. AFGHANISTAN: Military officials are “frustrated” and pushing President Biden to make a decision on U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, according to NBC News. Biden has yet to indicate whether he will withdraw troops from the country by May 1, the deadline set by a Trump-era agreement with the Taliban.

    BUDGET: Biden will release his so-called “skinny budget” today, an outline of his proposed spending totals for Fiscal Year 2022. According to Bloomberg, the president will request $715 billion for the Pentagon, a 0.4% decrease from this year’s spending level when adjusted for inflation — a refusal to side with either the liberals calling for cuts to defense or the hawks urging an increase.


All times Eastern.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Then, at 2:45 p.m., they will receive their weekly economic briefing.

First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Birmingham, Alabama. At 12:30 p.m., she will tour the James Rushton Early Learning Center. At 1:20 p.m., she will deliver remarks at the YWCA of Central Alabama. At both stops, she will speak about the provisions in the American Rescue Plan addressing child poverty.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 12:30 p.m. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will also participate.

U.S. public health officials, including CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and Dr. Anthony Fauci, will hold a press briefing at 11 a.m. on the COVID-19 response effort.

The House and Senate are not in session.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) will lead a delegation of 10 House Republicans to visit the southern border. They will tour the Donna Migrant Processing Facility; receive an operational brief; tour the border wall in McAllen, Texas; and participate in a riverine tour with the state Department of Public Safety in Misson, Texas. The lawmakers will hold a media availability in Mission at 12:50 p.m.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) will speak at the “Save America Summit,” a gathering of Trump supporters, at the former president’s Doral golf club in Miami, Florida. It will be Gaetz’s first public remarks since reports surfaced that he is under investigation by the FBI for potential sex trafficking violations.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will hold a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, another Trump property, in Palm Beach, Florida. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, will headline the event.

The Supreme Court is not in session.

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