A former aide to Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, said on Monday that he had recently been questioned by the F.B.I. as investigators seek to determine whether the congressman violated federal sex trafficking laws.
The aide, Nathan Nelson, said that the F.B.I. agents who showed up unannounced on Wednesday believed he may have resigned last year after learning about “illegal activities” by the congressman. Speaking to a dozen reporters on Monday outside his home in Santa Rosa, Fla., Mr. Nelson denied any such knowledge and dismissed accusations of wrongdoing against Mr. Gaetz as “baseless.”
“Neither I nor any members of Congressman Gaetz’s staff had any knowledge of illegal activities,” Mr. Nelson said. He added that he thought the investigation was “an attempt to discredit a very vocal conservative.”
Mr. Nelson, a retired Air Force captain who advised Mr. Gaetz on military issues from 2017 to last fall, conceded that he had no “specific knowledge” of the Justice Department investigation, which is said to focus on whether the congressman had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid other women who were recruited for sex.
Mr. Nelson’s remarks were arranged and publicized by Mr. Gaetz’s House office. They come as the congressman has moved aggressively — and at times misleadingly — to distract from the heart of the inquiry and portray it as another liberal witch hunt aimed at a conservative, like those targeting his ally former President Donald J. Trump.
“Folks won’t be surprised that bizarre claims are being made about me shortly after I decided to take on the most powerful institutions in the Beltway: the establishment; the F.B.I.; the Biden Justice Department; the Cheney political dynasty; even the Justice Department under Trump,” Mr. Gaetz wrote in an Op-Ed on Monday in The Washington Examiner.
He said he was “not a monk, and certainly not a criminal” and denied having sex with a minor or paying for sex.
“To this point, there are exactly zero credible (or even noncredible) accusers willing to come forward by name and state on the public record that I behaved improperly toward them,” he wrote.
The Times first reported the existence of the investigation last Tuesday. People briefed on the case said it stems from a broader investigation into an associate of Mr. Gaetz’s, Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who has already been indicted on dozens of counts accusing him of an array of crimes, including sex trafficking of a minor between the ages of 14 and 17.
Mr. Nelson, who is partially paralyzed from a military service injury, said he had not spoken to Mr. Gaetz in months and did not know Mr. Greenberg.