Republican operative Roger Stone denied asking a political ally of U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz for $250,000 in exchange for attempting to secure a pardon in a child sex-trafficking and identity-theft case.
The Daily Beast reported Thursday that Stone offered to help Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector who’s expected to plead guilty this month, get a pardon from President Donald Trump before he left office. The pardon was never granted.
The report was based on alleged text messages between Stone and Greenberg, as well as an alleged written confession by Greenberg saying that he and Gaetz, a Florida Republican and Trump ally, paid for sex with women as well as with a 17-year-old girl.
Stone, who was himself pardoned by Trump after being convicted of lying to Congress and tampering with witnesses in an effort to protect the president during the Russia probe, said in a text message late Friday that his communications with Greenberg were “clipped out of context.”
“I told Greenberg he would need a lawyer [I am not a lawyer] and that he should be prepared to wire a $250,000 retainer to the right lawyer if he could find one,” Stone said. “I made no effort whatsoever to secure a pardon for Mr. Greenberg and I took not a dime from him or anyone else seeking a pardon.”
The Daily Beast report quotes Stone saying to Greenberg in a Jan. 13 text, “I hope you are prepared to wire me $250,000 because I am feeling confident.”
Gaetz has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. His outside public relations firm, Logan Circle Group, said in a statement Saturday about the Daily Beast report that details of the criminal case against Greenberg are evidence of his ability to deceive and distort the truth. The firm pointed to an April report on Greenberg’s case by Politico, including federal claims that he created a bogus Facebook account to falsely accuse a teacher of having sex with a child.
“Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex, nor has he had sex with a 17-year-old as an adult,” Logan Circle Group said. “Politico has reported Mr. Greenberg’s threats to make false accusations against others, and while The Daily Beast’s story contains a lot of confessions from Mr. Greenberg, it does not add anything of substance, and certainly no evidence for the wild and false claims about Rep. Gaetz.”
Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call or email seeking comment on Saturday.
Around the time Greenberg’s plan to plead guilty was revealed in court on April 8, Gaetz hired one of Trump’s criminal defense lawyers, Marc Mukasey, as well as a new spokesperson and political analyst, Logan Circle Group’s Erin Elmore, who was once a contestant on Trump’s “The Apprentice” reality TV show.
Stone said Greenberg was implicating others because “desperate men often tell lies.”
“I have seen no substantiation or actual proof of any of the wild accusations he has made against Congressman Gaetz,” Stone said.
At the April hearing, Greenberg agreed with prosecutors that his case “should resolve by guilty plea” at a hearing set for May 15 before U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell in Orlando.
Erik Larson, Bloomberg News