New Developments Inextricably Link Trump to Gaetz Case

Links between Trump and the ongoing federal criminal investigations into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) are now too many, too varied, too profound, and too bizarre to ignore.

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Introduction

On December 19, 2020, Matt Gaetz thundered to a rabid crowd in West Palm Beach, Florida, “I’m a Donald Trump Republican!” Gaetz’s declaration followed hard upon his now-infamous pre-insurrection claim that “more bad behavior is what we need to advance the America First agenda”, as Republicans can’t “go back to losing politely.”

Increasingly, it’s looking like Gaetz got both his “bad behavior” and his commitment to Donald Trump over America ramped up much earlier than many realized. The ties between the two men have been public for some time now, but what changed in just the last 48 hours is that the forty-fifth President of the United States is now connected to the ongoing federal criminal investigation into his chief congressional sycophant to a degree we hadn’t previously appreciated. This article runs through the startling new developments that confirm this—some of which you’ll only read about here at Proof.

(1) Trump Is Now a Witness in the Gaetz Case

As soon as the New York Times reported that Gaetz had sought a nearly-unprecedented “blanket pardon” from Trump in the waning days of the Trump administration—per multiple sources—and Gaetz and Trump both denied that reporting, Trump became a witness in the Gaetz case who the FBI would naturally be expected to want to question (and who now, as a former president rather than a sitting one, can far more easily be approached about such an interview).

Were there no evidence other than multiple Times sources claiming that Gaetz reached out to Trump via an intermediary, the former president’s status as a witness might be unclear; as it is, Gaetz has claimed to have intimate knowledge of Trump’s thinking on pardons and without question was in private conversations with Donald Trump aboard Air Force One during the period Trump was being lobbied on pardons and the FBI was actively investigating Gaetz for sex trafficking and other potential federal crimes.

Gaetz has repeatedly made clear, in both television interviews and in press releases, that he was profoundly focused on Trump’s pardon agenda—particularly with respect to Edward Snowden—in November 2020, December 2020, and January 2021. Other Floridians actively lobbying Trump on pardons during this period included Trump friend and adviser Roger Stone, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, and (critically for this article) former Trump lawyer and current Ballard Partners lobbyist Pam Bondi, who engaged in at least one corrupt transaction with Trump as Florida Attorney General.

Given that Gaetz and Trump have now publicly rejected claims by sources who spoke to the Times—making it unlikely the FBI couldn’t find those sources, or that they’d refuse to speak to the FBI if asked to do so—there’s now a “battle of witnesses” inside the Gaetz case: the FBI knows that two sources with no known reason to lie will claim that Gaetz and Trump communicated directly and/or indirectly as to an extraordinary and almost historic pardon for the former—which communications would suggest that Gaetz may have confessed to Trump, directly and/or indirectly, acts whose revelation would not necessarily be covered by any extant privilege—and that Gaetz and Trump, who both appear to have a reason to lie as well as a long history of lying, will claim such conversations never happened. If the two men repeat those likely lies to the FBI, it’s a federal crime under 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Any credible FBI investigation would now seek to speak to the former president—especially as, unlike Gaetz, he has no obvious reason to refuse an interview.

So if there’s one thing all this makes clear to me as a former public defender who, back when I worked at the New Hampshire Public Defender, saw NHPD administrators spend hours weekly ensuring that our office had no conflicts of interest with any of our clients—or “cleared” any such conflicts, if we did—it is that under no circumstances could any legal counsel to Trump now get involved in the Gaetz case as Gaetz’s lawyer.

(2) Trump’s Lawyer Is Now Matt Gaetz’s Lawyer

Marc Mukasey, who Business Insider has correctly identified as a member of “Trump’s [legal] team”, is now representing Matt Gaetz in clear contravention of the Rules of Professional Conduct in every U.S. legal jurisdiction relating to conflicts of interest. An attorney cannot represent a defendant or potential defendant in whose case one of their current clients foreseeably may be a witness unless they’ve cleared the conflict first with their existing client.

In other words, either Mukasey, an experienced criminal defense attorney, is violating the most basic tenets of the profession of which he’s a member, or the former POTUS explicitly cleared Mukasey to represent his top congressional ally—a decision that other members of Trump’s extensive legal team would only have considered advisable if they thought—or, as importantly, given his infamous recalcitrance in the face of solid legal advice, if Trump thought—it was in his best interest.

For instance, in 2017 and 2018 Donald Trump did think that it was in his best interest to have Marc Mukasey represent both the Trump family and Joel Zamel, the Israeli business intelligence expert who confessed to top Trump adviser George Nader that he had illegally colluded with Trump to help him win the 2016 presidential election.

{Note: These events are discussed in great detail, with thousands of major-media citations, in my 2019 New York Times bestselling Macmillan book, Proof of Conspiracy.}

Mukasey would have been disbarred for representing Zamel—given the circumstances—without his client’s explicit (indeed written) prior consent. But apparently Trump saw the value in having special access to the legal counsel of a man who could have gotten him impeached had Congress investigated Trump-Israel collusion in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump, as we know, is a fan of secretive “joint defense agreements” that could amount to the federal crime of obstruction of justice. Trump had just such an agreement with his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, the one man—Trump told friends—who could bury him in the Trump-Russia investigation. Trump enjoying a joint defense agreement with a man found by Mueller to have colluded with Russian intelligence by sharing proprietary campaign data with a Russian intelligence agent mid-campaign in 2016 allowed him to float a pardon to Manafort through his lawyers, and even put him in a position to get on a call with Manafort and tamper with a federal witness long after Manafort’s indictment.

So there’s no reason to think Trump wouldn’t see the benefit of permitting one of his attorneys to once again represent someone in a case in which Trump himself may be a witness—and indeed there’s every reason to think that Trump may be seeking or have obtained a joint defense agreement with Matt Gaetz as he did with Paul Manafort, especially as Gaetz, like Manafort, is a potential danger to Trump (as someone Trump met with to strategize the events of January 6 in advance). January 6—a day that will live in infamy forever, and is currently being investigated not only by the DOJ but the DC Attorney General’s Office and, in a related election interference investigation, the Fulton County Attorney’s Office in Georgia—cannot help but be top of Trump’s mind as he considers his past private exchanges with Gaetz aboard Air Force One and in the White House. Indeed, both Trump and Gaetz credibly stand accused of having helped incite a bloody insurrection.

But does Trump have anything to fear from Matt Gaetz’s sex trafficking case itself, and/or any other potential federal cases against Gaetz, separate and apart from any danger he’d face if Gaetz cooperated with the FBI in a sex trafficking case in a way that aided the DOJ’s possible incitement or election fraud cases against Trump?

{Note: To be clear, one reason that conflicts of interest like the one Mukasey has now taken on are prima facie evidence of misconduct and a violation of an attorney’s solemn oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution is that Mukasey presently has a vested interest in convincing Matt Gaetz not to flip on Trump, even if doing so would clearly be in Gaetz’s best interest.}

(3) Trump Is Indeed Now Entwined with Gaetz’s Cases

This revelation takes some detailed explanation—so I approach it here methodically, beginning with a Matt Gaetz associate whose name few Americans will have heard.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Chris Dorworth, a “former Republican lawmaker-turned-lobbyist from Seminole County and [a] longtime friend” of Matt Gaetz, just stepped down from his lobbying firm, Ballard Partners—where, per the Sentinel, “Dorworth was hired in 2012 after he unexpectedly lost a bid for re-election to the Florida House.”

Chris Dorworth is now considered a suspect in a federal investigation adjacent to the Greenberg-Gaetz sex trafficking investigation. This second investigation involves new allegations that Gaetz and Dorworth conspired to run a “dummy candidate” or “ghost candidate” to illegally interfere in a Florida Senate race. It’s worth noting that Gaetz, Dorworth, and Greenberg have been friends for many years, so Dorworth may also be a critical witness in Gaetz’s sex trafficking case—as anyone with personal knowledge of Gaetz’s movements and activities within Florida’s profoundly corrupt political culture may have much to offer the FBI. Here’s Gaetz, Dorworth, and Greenberg at the Trump White House in 2019:

Am I suggesting that two prospective federal defendants (and a third already facing over thirty felony charges) hanging out at the Trump White House automatically implicates Trump himself in their wrongdoing? Of course not. Even Trump’s corrupt dealings with former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and his thick-as-thieves relationship with the current corrupt Florida governor (Ron DeSantis) doesn’t mean that hanging out with three likely Florida wrongdoers makes Trump an accomplice.

{Note: There’s also a fourth prospective federal defendant tied to both the “ghost candidate” case and the sex trafficking case, Miami Republican and former Florida state senator Frank Artiles, but despite his closeness with both Dorworth and Gaetz I won’t discuss Artiles in detail here, as his actions in these two matters are beside the focus of this particular discussion}.

What draws Trump into the Gaetz investigation is his association with the very entity Gaetz’s friend Chris Dorworth just resigned from: Ballard Partners. Per the Sentinel, Dorworth directly spoke to the head of that lobbying firm, Brian Ballard, in opting to leave his lucrative job there. Per Dorworth himself, he was worried that remaining in his position could drag both Ballard and his lobbying firm into future federal cases.

“Too late,” I’d say. But explaining why it’s too late is where all this gets very confusing.

I’ll break it down step by step.

(a) The Gaetz investigation is now focusing on a Bahamas trip that Gaetz took with a Florida hand surgeon in “late 2018 or early 2019.”

Jason Pirozzolo, the hand surgeon, has been described by CBS News as a “marijuana entrepreneur” who was interested in Gaetz because “Gaetz was working to introduce federal legislation that would boost medical research of cannabis.” Pirozzolo, the co-founder and chairman of the board of the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association (AMMPA), donated thousands of dollars to Gaetz between March 2016 and May 2017; had Gaetz speak at an AMMPA conference with Roger Stone in October 2017, shortly thereafter holding a fundraiser for Gaetz; and had Gaetz speak again at the AMMPA’s 2018 “NFL and Medical Cannabis Conference” in Miami. Pirozzolo was eventually, according to a Newsweek report, “appointed [by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis] to the governing board of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority on Matt Gaetz’s recommendation. The GOAA oversees Orlando airport.”

{Side note: Has Pirozzolo met former President of the United States Donald Trump on the tarmac outside Air Force One? Of course he has. And Gaetz made the below event possible.}

(b) The Gaetz-Pirozzolo party plane (CBS News says Pirozzolo “allegedly paid for the travel expenses, accommodations, and female escorts…[FBI] investigators are trying to determine if the escorts were illegally trafficked across state or international lines for the purpose of sex with Gaetz”) had another passenger very relevant to this story.

According to a report in the Tallahassee Democrat,

Halsey Beshears, the former head of [Florida’s] Department of Business and Professional Regulation and a seven-year state House member from Jefferson County, is the third Florida Republican caught up in a federal sex trafficking investigation. The New York Times reported Friday that the widening probe that stems from irregularities in [Joel Greenberg’s] Seminole County Tax Collector’s office has placed Beshears on a plane that sources say was used for a trip to the Bahamas that included GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz and former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg.

If Gaetz engaged in illicit international activity with not just a marijuana entrepreneur but the man who regulates marijuana businesses in Florida, it puts Gaetz at the center of not just federal legislation about medical marijuana in DC but possible corruption in the Florida marijuana industry—especially as to the licensing of new Florida marijuana growers. Beshears has been specifically accused of corruption in that particular area.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat,

Beshears was suspected by some cannabis lobbyists [in Florida] of inserting an amendment into the 2014 medical marijuana law—[for] which Gaetz was the [Florida] House sponsor—to limit license eligibility to a handful of growers, something [Beshears] denied.

Note that Beshears suddenly resigned from Florida state government in January, citing unspecified “health reasons.” Not usually a good sign when someone is simultaneously under federal criminal investigation.

(c) Gaetz’s connection to Pirozzolo underscores that Gaetz has been invested in the expansion of the marijuana industry in Florida and elsewhere since 2016. So who else who is known to be (i) a Floridian, (ii) corrupt, (iii) profoundly invested in this very same topic, (iv) wildly well-connected in Florida politics (specifically to friends of Matt Gaetz), and (v) invested in the marijuana industry during the same period Gaetz was a central figure in it both in DC and Florida? That would be none other than current federal defendants—and Trump agents—Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

Early in the day on April 9, 2021, I tweeted that while it “could be nothing, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Florida-dwelling Trump donors close to both Donald Trump and Gaetz pal Ron DeSantis, were trying to become multi-state marijuana entrepreneurs in 2017 and 2018….Did their paths cross [with Gaetz’s]?”

Hours later, breaking news dropped that certainly strongly suggested that possibility.

It’s not just that the two Floridian Trump agents—and current federal defendants—Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were trying to make it in the marijuana industry even as they acted as Trump’s agents in trying to steal the 2020 election by shaking down the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky (see the 575 pages and 5,000 major-media citations of my 2020 bestselling Macmillan book Proof of Corruption); it’s not just that the two men have a history of just the sort of illegal campaign donation allegations long associated with Trump, DeSantis, and now with Gaetz, Pirozzolo, and Beshears; it’s that they were seeking to make it as marijuana entrepreneurs during exactly the same period (2017, 2018, and 2019) that Gaetz was the foremost congressman on this issue in Washington and active in the issue in Parnas and Fruman’s home state—and the same period that Parnas and Fruman were cozying up to Gaetz’s good friend Ron DeSantis as part of their course of lobbying (see below).

The Orlando Sentinel says that Parnas and Fruman met with the Governor of the State of Florida at least six times as they were pursuing marijuana licenses.

But how does this connect to Gaetz? The missing pieces are Gaetz pal Chris Dorworth and Ballard Partners, run by Trump fundraiser Brian Ballard. So why do Dorworth and Brian Ballard matter so much? From p. 112 of the Kindle edition of Proof of Corruption, my 2020 book (internal citations omitted):

CNN will subsequently report that Lev Parnas told a client of South Florida attorney Robert Stok that he was so pressed for cash he “couldn’t even pay for [his] newborn son’s bris”; Parnas and Igor Fruman jointly ask Stok’s client Felix Vulis, a “Russian American natural resources magnate”, if Vulis could “kick in some money for the [bris]”, which Vulis ultimately does in the amount of $100,000—a staggering figure that raises more questions about Parnas’s son than it answers. As part of Vulis’s “bris” loan, Parnas promises the energy market titan that he will “open doors” for him with Trump’s attorney, [Parnas patron] Rudy Giuliani; Vice President Mike Pence’s former chief of staff, Nick Ayers, and Brian Ballard, “a Trump fundraiser from Florida who did business with Parnas.” Politico reports that by December 2019, Ballard’s firm had been subpoenaed by the FBI as part of the Bureau’s investigation into not just Parnas and Fruman but Rudy Giuliani himself.

In case you missed it, what this says is that a relatively small Florida-based lobbying firm run by a top Trump fundraiser, which just lost one of its foremost employees—a man who happens to be one of Gaetz’s best friends—is already under FBI investigation in a federal case involving Trump and Giuliani. I’d say that sentence bears reading twice.

And from p. 132 of the Proof of Corruption Kindle edition (internal citations omitted):

By late November 2019, it had become clear that federal prosecutors were following the money trail left behind by Parnas and Fruman to try to determine, as CNN reported, how the two men “appeared to rise out of nowhere to become fixtures at Trump fundraisers and fixers for Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine.” Prosecutors issued subpoenas to the following: Ballard Partners, a lobbying firm run by Brian Ballard, a “top Trump fundraiser”

So what “business” was the boss of a likely future Gaetz co-defendant involved in with would-be marijuana entrepreneur Parnas? Via p. 132 again (internal citations omitted):

CNN notes that in 2018 Ballard, at the same time that he was a foreign agent representing Turkey, paid Parnas $45,000, allegedly for “client referrals.”

So Parnas was in business—and a very lucrative business—with the company Gaetz’s alleged partner in crime worked for, and was in this business with Ballard Partners at a time his interest was in marijuana legislation and Gaetz’s focus was, likewise, marijuana legislation. Not to put too fine a point on all this: Parnas’s business associates, Ballard Partners, were in an almost comically unique position to aid Lev Parnas with precisely the thing he most needed help with at exactly the moment he most needed help with it.

(d) Trump took actions to reward Brian Ballard at the moment the FBI launched its investigation of Matt Gaetz.

According to a report by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), Brian Ballard was not only the chair of Trump Victory, a dubious entity that conjoined the 2016 and 2020 Trump campaigns and the RNC, but also a member of Trump’s 2016 Presidential Transition Team (which repeatedly met, in secret, with Russian, Qatari, Turkish, and Emirati agents); vice chair of Trump’s 2017 Inaugural Committee (which is now under federal criminal investigation); and a “high-dollar bundler” who “steered more than $2.2 million in bundled funds to [Trump Victory]” and then “assembled a team of operatives with deep Trump ties and leveraged those ties to quickly build Ballard Partners into a powerhouse lobbying firm.” Ballard has in the past, CRP notes, been a registered foreign agent of Qatar, Turkey, and “other foreign governments.” CRP adds, “As his firm raked in millions with a growing client base of over 100 foreign actors and other special interests, Ballard continued to fundraise big bucks for Trump.”

Oddly, once Ballard finished his work with the Trump transition and inaugural teams in 2017, Trump made no particular effort to publicly bestow honors upon him. That all changed just days after (a) the Gaetz investigation ramped up in mid-November 2020, and (b) Gaetz and Pam Bondi—also a Ballard Partners lobbyist—began privately and publicly discussing pardons with the then-president in November and December 2020.

As CRP details, on December 3, 2020, Trump announced that Brian Ballard was being appointed to what the White House called a “key administration post”: the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As CRP observes, “While the position doesn’t exactly give Ballard the nuclear codes, it [did] give the lobbyist ample opportunity for access in the Trump administration [in December 2020 and January 2021], and the multi-year term of the appointment means Ballard also stands to have access to the Biden administration—a potentially enviable [lobbying] position for a Trump-tied lobbyist navigating a post-Trump Washington.”

Lest it seem that Trump should have awarded Ballard an even more august post at a time when Ballard Partners was set to be central to not just the Parnas case, not just the Fruman case, not just the ongoing Giuliani investigation, not just the ongoing Trump Inaugural Committee investigation, but the Gaetz sex trafficking investigation and the Gaetz-Dorworth dummy-candidate investigation, CRP helpfully informs us that because “former executive branch appointees are barred from working as agents of foreign governments or foreign political parties under Trump’s 2017 ethics executive order, but [that order’s] definition of ‘appointee’ only explicitly covers full-time, non-career political appointees”, the post that Trump appointed Brian Ballard to gets to be “subject to less stringent ethics rules, allowing him to continue lobbying for special interests and serving as a foreign agent to multiple foreign governments while serving as a federal appointee.” In other words, Trump gave Ballard exactly the cushy government appointment he would have wanted.

{Note: Pam Bondi, a pardon lobbyist from Florida alongside Gaetz and Roger Stone, was, per CRP, named a member of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in 2017; joined Ballad Partners in 2019, immediately thereafter becoming a foreign agent for the Qatari government who also did work for arrested and jailed Russian businesswoman Marsha Lazareva; left Ballard in 2019 to be a Special Adviser to the president in the Office of White House Counsel; moved to Trump’s impeachment defense team; and then, post-impeachment, “continued working at Ballard’s firm…[and] registered as a foreign agent of the Qatari government again months later in 2020.”}

(e) Ballard Partners looks more and more essential to the ring of potential federal cases against Matt Gaetz case the more you look at it.

It may well be coincidence that Ballard Partners has just three bases of operations—Washington, Florida, and Israel—and that an agent of Israel’s consulate inexplicably had advance warning of the grand jury proceedings in the Gaetz sex trafficking case potentially involving a top lobbyist at Ballard Partners, but perhaps the more salient observation is just how small Ballard Partners is: not even three dozen lobbyists (two of whom work in Israel, and only thirteen of whom work in DC, many part-time). In 2018 the firm was slightly smaller yet: thirty-two employees. This suggests that Dorworth, an extremely powerful Republican at one point in line to be the Speaker of the Florida House, would have had cause to know of Ballard’s dealings with Parnas and Fruman (and perhaps the two Trump agents’ dealings with DeSantis). Indeed, per his LinkedIn page Dorworth was a managing partner at Ballard Partners; right now the firm has just nine of these—two in Israel—and presumably had even fewer back in 2018. If you doubt the sort of powerbroker that Chris Dorworth is, read this exposé of his dubious political and campaign-finance practices. Indeed, Gaetz has even called Dorworth his “legislative mentor”.

So if a Ballad Partners’ client, Trump agent Lev Parnas, wanted help with his plan to become a marijuana entrepreneur, how could Ballard Partners not exploit its intimate relationship with the chief expert on the expansion of the marijuana industry in both DC and Florida? As the Daily Beast notes, Gaetz’s interest in the topic isn’t superficial:

[Gaetz and Greenberg] have both pushed for marijuana legalization as well. In January 2019, Gaetz shared a video on Twitter with Greenberg and John Morgan, an Orlando attorney who refers to himself as “Pot Daddy.” Greenberg was an avid cannabis user who frequently carried around a marijuana vape pen, said three people who saw him use it either in the tax office, at work parties, or with friends. And he became Gaetz’s go-to person for cannabis vapes, according to one of those sources….Lawmakers have gossiped about [Gaetz’s] drinking and drug use for years, complaining that his office often smelled like weed and speculating that his weight loss while in Congress was due to cocaine.

{Note: Parnas is also an aficionado of vaping, and is said to “frequently puff on a vape pen.”}

In view of the foregoing, it would be lobbyist malpractice for Ballard Partners not to put Parnas and Fruman in touch with Matt Gaetz—again, and critically, at a time when the former two men were Trump agents and donors, Rudy Giuliani associates, friends with Gaetz friend Ron DeSantis, and atop the Florida political culture to which Gaetz, too, was central. And indeed it’s clear that in particular Parnas—as his English is far better than Fruman’s—would have pushed for such introductions; Parnas was, infamously, so aggressive about making powerful new connections tied to his benighted marijuana ambitions that, as McClatchy reports, he “raised the issue of easing restrictions on [non-traditional sources of capital for marijuana businesses] while at a private dinner he and Fruman attended with President Trump in April 2018. A video of him doing so has been widely viewed.” Brian Ballard could connect Parnas and Fruman with both Gaetz and Beshears, who was, unlike Dorworth, on Pirozzolo’s “party plane.”

As Proof of Corruption details, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman’s criminal specialization is bribing officials to get things they want. This is just the sort of allegation that Gaetz finds himself in the midst of with respect to Parnas and Fruman’s fellow marijuana entrepreneur Pirozzolo. And as CBS News reports, citing Arlo Devlin-Brown, a former prosecutor, “If there’s evidence of a quid pro quo—that the congressman [Gaetz] was provided with benefits in return for him sponsoring some [marijuana] legislation that’s of interest to the donor [Jason Pirozzolo]—then that’s a federal crime.”

(f) Matt Gaetz’s attorney Marc Mukasey isn’t just connected to the Trump family—he’s also connected to Parnas and Fruman’s patron and associate, Rudy Giuliani.

As Proof of Corruption establishes across hundreds of pages, Parnas and Fruman worked hand-in-glove with Trump’s personal attorney, Giuliani, for well over a year.

According to NBC News, Mukasey is “a protege of Trump’s personal lawyer former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.”

So Mukasey may be bringing Trump inside knowledge of the ongoing Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman cases—in which Giuliani is a key figure—and the ongoing investigation of Giuliani (in which Parnas and Fruman are key witnesses) as he’s representing Gaetz.

(g) The more one pushes on the web of “coincidences” in the social and professional network that involves the chief power players in Florida politics—including Trump, DeSantis, Gaetz, and (once) Parnas and Fruman—the more any notion of coincidence becomes quaint and even farcical.

Top Lev Parnas associate Robert Hyde has been photographed with Gaetz. Gaetz was animated about Parnas not testifying at Trump’s impeachment trial, though this was a topic nearly every other congressional Republican ignored as a nonstarter. The Orlando Sentinel has written that Gaetz pal DeSantis’ “reaction [to Parnas’s allegations about Trump and Giuliani] in particular makes it look as if he has something to hide. He’s not taking questions about Parnas, much less answering them.” Parnas and Fruman “co-hosted” two DeSantis fundraisers, according to a report in the Miami Herald. The two men—DeSantis and Parnas—even texted each other. Gaetz and DeSantis are so close that DeSantis’ political opponents have even run ads about their “bromance.” Indeed, Gaetz is so close with DeSantis that despite the presidential ambitions Gaetz openly professed in West Palm Beach in December 2020, he’s publicly pushed the idea of a DeSantis run for the White House.

Conclusion

The upshot of all of this:

  1. That Trump is at the center of the Parnas, Fruman, and Giuliani cases is clear: these are men who committed crimes on Trump’s authority and at his direction.

  2. That Trump’s lawyer representing Gaetz is a conflict of interest, as Trump is now also a witness in the Gaetz case, is clear. The conflict could only be cleared by Trump explicitly signing off on his legal team overlapping with Gaetz’s.

  3. Any linkage between Gaetz, Parnas, and Fruman—or between Parnas, Fruman, and any of Gaetz’s ring of potential future co-defendants (Greenberg, Dorworth, Artiles, Beshears, or Pirozzolo) brings Trump, and for that matter DeSantis, into the storyline. Trump’s actions with respect to the chief point of linkage between Parnas and Gaetz, Brian Ballard, are already suspect, and Ballard’s conduct with respect to campaign finance issues is already suspect and under FBI investigation.

  4. Gaetz’s cases now involve the marijuana business in Florida, which is precisely one of the focuses of the federal investigation into Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

  5. It strains all credulity to imagine that a ring of powerful Florida power brokers who know one another’s associates and want the same things never contacted one another. And every public action by Trump suggests that he sees the Gaetz probes as not just matters affecting a top ally but his own personal interests.