‘Innocent until proven guilty’: McCarthy says no punishment for Gaetz unless charges filed

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday told reporters that GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), who’s under federal investigation for sex trafficking allegations, is “innocent until proven guilty” and that Gaetz will not be punished unless charges are filed.

Asked during a Thursday press conference whether the scandal-racked Florida congressman would keep his seat on the House Judiciary Committee due to its oversight of the Justice Department, the House GOP leader said: “Matt Gaetz is the same as any American, he’s innocent until proven guilty. There’s no charges against him yet. If a charge comes forward, that will be dealt with at that time.”

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The House GOP leader has previously vowed to strip Gaetz of his committee assignments if the allegations against the embattled congressman are proven to be true—specifically, that he had allegedly engaged in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, potentially facing federal sex trafficking charges if found to be true.

Gaetz has denied the allegations against him, and refuses to resign from Congress.

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“I’ve spoken to Mr. Gaetz about the accusations. He’s told me he’s innocent of the accusations,” McCarthy also told reporters Thursday, adding: “I explained to Mr. Gaetz the rules inside our conference. If there was something to come forward, we would take action.”

“As of right now, Matt Gaetz says he is innocent, there’s an investigation going on and I’ll let the investigation take care of itself,” McCarthy said at another point during the press conference.

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