Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) insisted Monday he never sought a blanket pardon from Donald Trump even though multiple former Trump administration officials testified under oath that he did.
Gaetz clashed with MSNBC’s Ari Melber on “The Beat” as the host repeatedly pressed him on the allegation. Gaetz said he had been involved in pardon negotiations for other people but never sought one for himself.
Melber noted that several witnesses close to the Trump White House had testified last year to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that Gaetz was among several Republican lawmakers who sought pardons over their involvement in then-President Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.
“Here’s some of the under-oath testimony from Trump insiders,” Melber said, bringing up video.
“We’ve got multiple people. The director of White House presidential personnel, [Johnny McEntee], who’s a Trump loyalist. Lawyer Eric Herschmann. Cassidy Hutchinson, famously. They all testified under oath that you specifically requested a pardon.”
After showing the footage, Melber continued: “So the question is, can you really say that all of them are committing perjury, lying on you? A. And B, if a pardon was requested, why not just tell us what were you worried about? What was it that you thought you or others might be indicted for?”
Gaetz responded by disparaging Hutchinson, who was a top aide to Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, and saying that he recalled things differently than did Herschmann.
“Cassidy Hutchinson is a known liar,” Gaetz said.
“I do not remember it the same way Eric Herschmann does,” he added. “I did have conversations with Eric Herschmann about different groups of people that could potentially receive pardons ― even including some of the people who may have committed a technical violation of federal law, but they weren’t engaged in violence on Jan. 6.”
Asked if he advocated for pardons for other lawmakers, Gaetz was vague.
“No. There were discussions about pardons for President Trump, his family members, his allies, and presumably members of Congress could have fallen in that group,” he said.
The New York Times first reported in April 2021 that Gaetz had, in the final weeks of the Trump administration, privately asked the White House to pardon himself and others for any crimes they may have committed. Last June, the Jan. 6 committee aired testimony from Trump insiders that backed that reporting. According to The Washington Post in September, one Trump aide, McEntee, testified that Gaetz sought a preemptive pardon regarding a sex trafficking investigation in which he was a target.
Prosecutors have since recommended against charging Gaetz in the matter, reportedly in part due to credibility concerns with two central witnesses. His former associate Joel Greenberg has been sentenced to 11 years in prison in the investigation.