Nearly a week after allegations of sex trafficking involving Rep. Matt Gaetz—one of Donald Trump’s most flamboyant, unapologetic defenders in Congress—became public, the former president is finally acknowledging the Florida congressman’s existence. But his new statement, clocking in at just 24 words, is far from the full-throated defense Gaetz was likely hoping to receive.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” reads Trump’s Wednesday statement. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”
The statement specifically responds to only a small part of Gaetz’s imploding scandals, and it doesn’t come as a surprise that it involves Trump himself. On Tuesday night, the New York Times reported that Gaetz, in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, approached the White House for “blanket preemptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional aides.” The request came as the Justice Department began questioning Gaetz about his alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old. Trump’s response on Wednesday appears carefully worded to note that Gaetz did not ask him personally for such pardons—never mind that the Times never reported that.
As for the allegations of sex trafficking a minor, paying for sex, and other sordid details that have emerged in the past week, Trump merely noted that Gaetz denies them all. That rather milquetoast defense is a good reminder that Trump, who stands credibly accused by more than 20 women of sexual assault and misconduct, also denies the allegations against him.