Embattled Rep. Matt Gaetz deployed his “military adviser” Monday to deflect swirling allegations of sexual and financial misconduct—only for the former employee to admit he had no exculpatory evidence and reveal he had not even spoken to the congressman in months.
Gaetz’s team convened the event at the personal residence of former Air Force Capt. Nathaniel Nelson. But rather than actually aid in clearing Gaetz’s name, Nelson seemed mainly interested in disputing rumors that he departed the Florida Republican’s office last fall because he had learned of claims of sex trafficking and misallocation of campaign funds. (Gaetz denies breaking any laws).
Sitting in front of a knot of microphones, Nelson said rumors about his departure had prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to question him at his home last Wednesday.
“Neither I nor any other member of Congressman Gaetz’s staff had any knowledge of illegal activities,” Nelson said. “This baseless claim against me leaves me further convinced that the allegations against Congressman Gaetz are likewise fabricated, and merely an attempt to discredit a very vocal conservative.”
Yet when reporters pressed Nelson on whether he could refute the reports that Gaetz had inappropriate or even illegal relationships with much younger women, the veteran admitted he could not.
“I’m not here to provide any degree of evidence in support of Congressman Gaetz, only to discredit these baseless allegations,” he said. “I don’t have any specific knowledge on the investigation or any of the facts that are involved with the investigation.”
Nelson, who was hired as Gaetz’s director of military affairs in January 2017, said he made a “planned departure” in October 2020 to enter the private sector. His LinkedIn now describes him as an inspirational speaker with his own ministry, but Nelson said he remains “loosely affiliated” with the Gaetz’s office as an unpaid adviser.
After the visit from the FBI, Nelson said he contacted Gaetz’s office. However, it does not appear that Nelson and the Congressman have been close since he left the staff.
“You know, I haven’t had the opportunity to speak to Congressman Gaetz in several months,” Nelson said.
Asked whether he thought Gaetz had displayed poor character, regardless of whether a crime was committed, Nelson sidestepped any question of the congressman’s personal life.
“He’s been a powerhouse in DC, advocating for the interests of Northwest Florida. I believe that the degree of attention that he’s brought to issues concerning Floridians is very, very important,” he said. “I believe any allegations of him being involved in illegal activities are baseless. He’s spent the last four years drawing a tremendous amount of spotlight on himself and his activities, and I don’t think that he would likewise be conducting anything illegal.”
The Department of Justice has reportedly opened an investigation into whether Gaetz had a relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel—a probe sparked by a sex-trafficking case against one of his close Florida associates, Joel Greenberg.
Gaetz denies having sexual contact with a minor and has painted himself as a victim. His father, former state Sen. Don Gaetz, was approached with a proposal to pony up $25 million to rescue ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson from Iran as a back-door way of making the son’s legal problems vanish. (Levinson’s own family has said there is credible evidence he is dead).
It’s not clear what Nelson or Gaetz hoped the Monday press conference would accomplish beyond confirming that the FBI is asking questions about whether the congressman had broken any laws.
But it did give the media a chance to ask Nelson about another connection to the Gaetz family. He confirmed that a company he is associated with had sought funding from Triumph Gulf Coast, a state-controlled nonprofit led by Gaetz’s father that doles out money to communities that suffered damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill. Nelson said his business had dropped its application.