WASHINGTON (AP) — The political peril is deepening for conservative Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz. The often outlandish, Trump-styled provocateur appears increasingly isolated amid a federal sex-trafficking investigation.
Federal prosecutors are examining whether the Florida congressman and a political ally who is facing sex trafficking allegations may have paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex. That's according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss it publicly.
Few Republicans are coming to Gaetz's defense. But GOP leaders are also slow to publicly confront a high-profile lawmaker popular in Trump's orbit. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing.
Gaetz's communications director, Luke Ball, stepped down on Friday as controversy surrounded Gaetz.
"The Office of Congressman Matt Gaetz and Luke Ball have agreed that it would be best to part ways. We thank him for his time in our office, and we wish him the best moving forward," Gaetz's office said in a statement to ABC News.
Leaders from both parties in recent days have called on the investigation to play itself out.
"I don't think we have any further comment. I'd refer you to the legal authorities on that," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday.