The House Ethics committee on Friday said it would launch an investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who has been accused of sexual misconduct, among a litany of other things. The Justice Department is investigating Gaetz for an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

In a statement Friday, the committee chairman said they were aware of allegations that Gaetz “may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct.”

Gaetz has not been charged with any crimes and has denied the allegations, claiming he and his family are the victims of an extortion plot.

President Biden’s first budget request to Congress, unveiled Friday, reflects far different priorities than his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump. Biden’s blueprint seeks $1.5 trillion in federal spending, with major increases for education, health and the environment, while keeping defense spending essentially flat.

Meanwhile, Biden announced a bipartisan commission Friday to study possible changes to the Supreme Court, fulfilling a campaign promise prompted by pressure from liberal groups to expand the number of justices.

Here’s what to know:

  • Biden will meet Monday at the White House with congressional Republicans and Democrats as he makes the case for his ambitious $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.
  • The House Ethics Committee has opened an investigation into Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) who has been accused of sexual misconduct by a former lobbyist.
  • Former House speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) in a new memoir derides today’s Republican Party as unrecognizable to traditional conservatives like himself.
  • The Senate Leadership Fund, a political action committee aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), on Friday announced its support for the reelection of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), whom Trump has vowed to defeat.
  • A Florida politician at the center of an investigation into Gaetz is negotiating with prosecutors to resolve his own sex-trafficking charges, a potentially ominous sign for Gaetz.
11:59 p.m.
Link copied

Rep. Matt Gaetz gives defiant speech to pro-Trump women’s group: ‘I’m not going anywhere’

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) first got involved in politics a decade ago. It didn't take him long to find stardom in the Republican Party. (Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) gave a defiant keynote speech Friday night for the pro-Trump “Women for America First” group, indicating he had no intention of stepping down despite facing allegations of sexual misconduct and child sex trafficking. Echoing the tone of the former president, Gaetz dismissed the investigations into his alleged behavior as a vast conspiracy bolstered by “the lying media.”

“I’m built for the battle, and I’m not going anywhere,” Gaetz said, to cheers from the crowd at Trump National Doral Miami resort, where former president Donald Trump is hosting the “Save America Summit” this weekend for his most loyal supporters.

“The smears against me range from distortions of my personal life, to wild — and I mean wild — conspiracy theories,” Gaetz continued. “I won’t be intimidated by the lying media, and I won’t be extorted by a former DOJ official and the crooks he is working with. The truth will prevail.”

The Justice Department is reportedly investigating Gaetz’s alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl. The House Ethics Committee on Friday said it was opening a separate investigation into a litany of claims against the Florida congressman, including child sex trafficking. Gaetz has not been charged with any crimes and has denied having sex with a minor as an adult. He has claimed without evidence that he is the victim of an extortion attempt.

At Doral on Friday evening, Gaetz took the stage with his fiancee and spent the majority of his 15-minute speech boasting of the many women who work for him in Congress and of the drive he saw in his own mother.

“I do know that there is something special, tangible and powerful in what women have. And I’ve known it all my life,” Gaetz said.

Sprinkled throughout what was intended to be a speech about women’s empowerment were false suggestions that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump and dark insinuations about unnamed forces out to stop anyone who supported Trump’s “America First” agenda. An attack on him was an attack on anyone who agreed with him, Gaetz claimed.

“When you see the leaks and the lies, the falsehoods and the smears, when you see anonymous sources and insiders forecasting my demise, know this: They’re not really coming for me. They’re coming for you. I’m just in the way,” Gaetz said.

10:09 p.m.
Link copied

Hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses go unordered by states amid outbreaks, spurring calls for new approach

States have delayed ordering hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses available to them even as coronavirus outbreaks escalate — a sign that the nation is moving past its supply pinch and now faces more-acute challenges related to demand, staffing and inoculation of hard-to-reach populations.

At one point last week, 13 states had more than 100,000 doses apiece available and unordered, according to a federal official familiar with the figures who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

The delays have gained notice inside the federal government, where officials have discussed whether performance metrics, including how quickly states are ordering and using their vaccine, and getting them to vulnerable groups, should be part of allocation decisions, according to three people familiar with the issue. Any new approach, however, would need sign-off from the White House, which has been at pains to avoid the appearance of penalizing some states while boosting others, including by directing additional doses to virus hot spots.

9:45 p.m.
Link copied

Trump executive’s son was given sizable salary, generous perks, documents show

NEW YORK — Donald Trump's company paid a skating rink manager more than $200,000 in annual salary, $40,000 yearly bonuses and provided free company-owned apartments for his family, according to testimony of the employee, Barry Weisselberg, and his financial documents.

Such payments and perks, as well as other financial support provided to Weisselberg and his family, have drawn new scrutiny from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) as a potentially key component of his ongoing criminal investigation into former president Trump’s business activity and finances.

Barry Weisselberg is the son of Trump’s longtime confidant and chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, whose cooperation prosecutors are maneuvering to secure, a person familiar with the investigation said, as they evaluate whether there is sufficient evidence to charge Trump, or members of his family or inner circle. Like others, this person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

9:31 p.m.
Link copied

Analysis: The ‘stolen election’ energy is strong in the GOP’s early crop of 2022 candidates

On Thursday, I wrote about a very important problem when it comes to some Republicans’ desire to cleanse the party of Trumpism: a lack of people actually willing to run on such a platform. Over and over again, the vast majority of incumbents who have strongly criticized former president Donald Trump have opted not to seek reelection rather than to defend that position.

But even more notable is this: There is no such problem on the opposite side of the debate — and far from it. In fact, when it comes to the most contentious recent event in Republican Party politics — baseless claims of a stolen election — the crop of GOP candidates emerging in key Senate and governor’s races is significantly more extreme than even those they’re running to serve alongside.

8:45 p.m.
Link copied

White House border coordinator, Roberta Jacobson, to step down

Roberta Jacobson, the White House border coordinator, will step down from that role at the end of the month, the White House said in a statement Friday.

Jacobson, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, had been leading the White House’s efforts to stem a surge in migration to the southwest border. Last month, Jacobson warned that the U.S.-Mexico border was “closed” and urged migrants not to make the treacherous journey.

Jacobson also led a delegation to the border last month to “develop an effective and humane plan of action to manage migration,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said at the time.

In a statement, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Jacobson’s decision to step down was “consistent with her commitment at the outset to serve in the Administration’s first 100 days.”

President Biden has asked Vice President Harris to take the lead on southwest border issues and immigration, to be supported by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Sullivan noted in his statement.

8:05 p.m.
Link copied

Ethics Committee to investigate GOP Rep. Tom Reed, accused of sexual misconduct by lobbyist

The House Ethics Committee has opened an investigation into Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) who has been accused of sexual misconduct by a former lobbyist.

“The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Tom Reed may have engaged in sexual misconduct, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct,” says a committee statement, and “has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding the allegations.”

The Washington Post reported last month that Nicolette Davis, a former lobbyist for Aflac insurance, said she was at a Minneapolis bar in 2017 at a networking event when Reed rubbed her back and unhooked her bra. She was 25 years old.

Two days after the story broke, Reed made a public apology and said he’d been struggling with alcohol abuse at that time.

“Even though I am only hearing of this matter as stated by Ms. Davis in the article now, I hear her voice and will not dismiss her,” he said in the statement. “In reflection, my personal depiction of this event is irrelevant. Simply put, my behavior caused her pain, showed her disrespect and was unprofessional. I was wrong, I am sorry, and I take full responsibility.”

At the time Davis chose not to report Reed to the ethics panel, but said she regretted that now.

In response to the news of the ethics probe, Reed said, “We have already publicly addressed this situation and consistent with that are cooperating with the House Ethics Committee to bring this matter to conclusion.”

7:49 p.m.
Link copied

House Ethics Committee to investigate Matt Gaetz

The House Ethics Committee on Friday said it would launch an investigation of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who has been the subject of numerous recent allegations, including potential child sex trafficking. The Justice Department is reportedly investigating Gaetz for an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

In a statement Friday, the committee said it was aware of allegations that Gaetz “may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct.”

Gaetz has not been charged with any crimes and has denied the allegations, in turn claiming he is the victim of an extortion plot.

“Once again, the office will reiterate, these allegations are blatantly false and have not been validated by a single human being willing to put their name behind them,” Gaetz’s office said in a statement Friday when asked about the new investigation.

6:25 p.m.
Link copied

POW-MIA flag again flies atop White House, Psaki says

The Biden administration returned the POW-MIA flag to the top of the White House after it was moved to another location near the end of President Donald Trump’s time in office, angering veterans groups.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers — Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — wrote to Biden in January urging him to restore the flag to its place above the residence.

Psaki said it was a “true display of bipartisanship” and “in keeping with the president and first lady’s commitment to honor the sacrifices of all those who serve.”

“I am thankful that the POW/MIA flag now once again flies high in its rightful place above the White House. It is a powerful way to continually remember and pay tribute to the tremendous sacrifice of prisoners of war and missing service members,” Hassan said in a statement.

In 2019, Congress passed a law requiring that the POW/MIA flag be flown alongside the U.S. flag on all federal buildings.

6:04 p.m.
Link copied

Psaki won’t address outside pressure on Justice Breyer to retire

White House press secretary Jen Psaki refused to engage on the pressure campaign by liberal groups for Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer to step down so Biden can appoint a successor while Democrats still have their narrow hold on the Senate.

The president “believes that’s a decision Justice Breyer will make when he decides it’s time to no longer serve on the Supreme Court,” Psaki said at the daily news briefing.

Psaki said she is unaware of any conversations Biden has had with any Supreme Court justice since his inauguration.

Breyer, who is 82 years old, is one of three current justices on the court appointed by a Democratic president.

The question of Breyer’s future comes days after he gave a lecture at Harvard Law School, in which he criticized the idea of expanding the number of justices on the highest court. The Biden White House on Friday announced a commission to study the idea of adding more Supreme Court judges and issue a report to the president on its findings in 180 days.

5:14 p.m.
Link copied

The GOP is Trump’s party, so ‘all Republican roads lead to Mar-a-Lago’

On Thursday night, the Mar-a-Lago Club hosted a dinner for more than 100 people, put on by a conservative activist group, at which the club’s owner, former president Donald Trump, spoke for more than an hour. On Friday, the club was booked again, for a lunch fundraiser to benefit Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Sarah Sanders and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also have fundraisers scheduled at the club this weekend. And Saturday night, the Republican National Committee has reserved Mar-a-Lago for a 400-person banquet. The price tag for that dinner: more than $100,000, according to a person involved in the planning.

The GOP is still Donald Trump’s party. The clearest proof of that: It is still finding ways to pay Donald Trump money.

Since Trump left office, at least six Republican candidates have held fundraisers at the former president’s Florida properties. This weekend, there will be at least six more events put on by GOP-aligned groups.

The events show that Trump has maintained his status as the party’s central figure, even after the violent effort by supporters to overthrow the election results on his behalf and a post-presidency exile in which he has rarely left his property.

5:04 p.m.
Link copied

Analysis: The asterisk on Trump’s endorsement of Marco Rubio

Donald Trump is trying to play kingmaker in 2022 Republican primaries. And on Friday, he added a high-profile Senate incumbent to the list, backing Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

And as is often the case with the former president, Trump’s support apparently owed in significant part to Rubio having said things about Trump that Trump liked.

After praising Rubio as a champion for his constituents, Trump added, “He also ruled that ‘President Trump was in no way involved with Russia,’ as he presided over the Senate Intelligence Committee on the FAKE Russia, Russia, Russia Hoax.”

This is, to put it gently, a highly oversimplified and misleading review of what the Senate Intelligence Committee report actually found. But it its also one that Rubio played into and has now benefited from, with his campaign pushing out Trump’s endorsement statement.

4:38 p.m.
Link copied

Biden to speak at Capitol ceremony for officer killed guarding the building

Biden will speak at a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol next week to honor Capitol Police Officer William “Billy” F. Evans, who died the Friday before Easter when a man drove his car into Evans and another officer.

Evans will lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday. At 11 a.m., Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) will each give remarks. Members of Congress and of the Capitol Police can pay their respects between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Evans, who served for 18 years on the Capitol Police force, will be one of six people to lie in the Rotunda who was not a public official or military leader. Among them was Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died after being injured during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

4:20 p.m.
Link copied

Gaetz taps two high-profile New York defense attorneys to represent him in sex-trafficking investigation

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has brought on two veteran New York defense attorneys, including one with close ties to former president Donald Trump, to represent him as he faces a federal investigation of possible sex trafficking of a minor, a Gaetz spokeswoman said Friday.

Marc Mukasey, a former federal prosecutor and the son of former attorney general Michael Mukasey, and Isabelle Kirshner, a longtime criminal-defense attorney and former assistant district attorney, will lead Gaetz’s legal team, said the spokeswoman, Erin Elmore.

She said in a statement that Gaetz planned to wage an aggressive battle against potential charges. “Matt has always been a fighter. A fighter for his constituents, a fighter for the country, and a fighter for the Constitution,” Elmore said. “And he’s going to fight back against the unfounded allegations against him. His legal team, led by Marc Mukasey and Isabelle Kirshner, will take the fight to those trying to smear his name with falsehoods.”

The Justice Department has been investigating a wide range of allegations surrounding Gaetz, including that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for sex in such a way that might violate federal trafficking laws. Gaetz has denied ever having sex with a 17-year-old as an adult or paying for sex.

The probe of Gaetz grew out of a Justice Department investigation of a different Florida politician: former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, who is facing a 33-count indictment that includes an allegation of sex trafficking of a minor. Investigators believe he and Gaetz might have had sex with the same 17-year-old, people familiar with the matter have said. In an ominous sign for Gaetz on Thursday, a prosecutor and Greenberg’s defense attorney revealed that Greenberg is likely to plead guilty in the case. If he did and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, he might be able to help prosecutors build a case against Gaetz, a higher-profile target, though Greenberg is likely to face questions about his credibility.

Mukasey and Kirshner are no stranger to high-profile investigations. Mukasey, who previously worked at Rudolph Giuliani’s law firm but now runs his own office, has represented Trump in investigations in New York, as well as Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was acquitted in 2019 of killing a wounded Islamic State prisoner in Iraq. Kirshner represented former New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, who resigned his office amid allegations of physical abuse.

3:54 p.m.
Link copied

Analysis: Democrats wonder what Manchin means when he says he won’t ‘weaken’ the filibuster

In some ways, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has built a national political career on telling voters what he won’t do.

Facing a 50-50 Senate, where any one Democrat can block Biden’s agenda, absent GOP defections, the White House has no choice but to take notice when the former governor of the Mountain State voices his opposition.

Manchin did that this week with a Washington Post op-ed laying out his position on the filibuster, a parliamentary tactic that effectively means most legislation in the Senate needs 60 votes to pass.