Pelosi: Remove Rep. Gaetz from committee if claims are true

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2021, file photo Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.,, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2021, file photo Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.,, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Matt Gaetz, facing accusations of a sexual relationship with an underage girl, should at a minimum be removed from the House Judiciary Committee if the claims are true, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

Pelosi, D-Calif., also said the House Ethics Committee should consider the allegations against the Florida Republican.

Gaetz, 38, who has been one of former President Donald Trump's closest allies since coming to Congress in 2017, said anew Thursday that the accusations are wrong.

Asked directly if Gaetz should resign from Congress or lose his committee seat, Pelosi didn't specifically address the more severe step.

“If in fact these allegations are true, of course being removed from the Judiciary Committee is the least that could be done,” Pelosi told reporters. She added, “From what we’ve heard so far, this would be a matter for the Ethics Committee.”

The Ethics panel, made up of five members from each party, can recommend punishments ranging from a reprimand, or formal rebuke, to expulsion, which is rare partly because lawmakers often resign first. The full House would have to approve such actions, with expulsion requiring a two-thirds majority.

Pelosi's comments fell short of the swift removal from the Judiciary Committee sought by at least one Democratic lawmaker. But the remarks still left the political future clouded for Gaetz, who is under federal investigation over accusations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid her to travel with him, two people familiar with the matter have told The Associated Press.

Pelosi’s remarks came about two months after the House, on a mostly party-line vote, took the unprecedented step of removing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., from both her committees. That was in reaction to her history of spreading threatening and false conspiracy theories on social media.