POLITICO Power List: 19 TO WATCH IN 2019

January 3, 2019
In The News

Rep. Matt Gaetz isn’t disappearing from your TV screens anytime soon.

The controversial Florida Republican and ardent Donald Trump supporter, who just won re-election, will continue making his plea to protect the president on any news channel that will have him in 2019.

With Democrats holding the House majority, he thinks it’s only a matter of time until House Democrats try to impeach the president. And Gaetz will be there to defend him.

“He needs a capable defense on the Judiciary Committee to show what a witch hunt this truly is,” said the congressman, who sits on the committee. “I feel a real sense of obligation to provide that defense.”

The committee is “about to be covered like the O.J. trial,” he added.

House Democrats have said they will not try to impeach Trump and will, instead, wait for special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe to be completed before determining whether any action should be taken.

But the Florida Republican believes Democrats will succumb to pressure after “Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris Hayes are calling for impeachment every night on television.”

Although he believes defending Trump’s presidency will be an uphill battle, Gaetz also said he’s willing to work across the aisle on some issues, such as medical marijuana.

“I made mention to some of my Republican colleagues that I thought there might be some bills that we would support that Republicans were not interested in hearing that Democrats might be interested in hearing,” he said. “And one of my colleagues said to me, ‘Well, I agree with you, but we wouldn’t want to give Nancy Pelosi a win.’ That is very counterproductive in my view.

“If I agree with Democrats on issues like climate change, gay rights, marijuana reform, I’m ready to work with them,” the congressman added.

But Gaetz believes one of the only ways to get things done in Washington — besides calling up the White House, which he said he can do — is to reach people in their homes.

“The driving force of this town is not the agenda being published today on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, right? It’s what people are talking about on television,” he said. Much of his day consists of pitching himself to networks and refining the pitch until he gets scheduled on a primetime show.

“To me, what’s crazy is not that I actively pitch the opportunity to go on television — it’s that people stand in a room that is entirely empty and give speeches as if people are listening,” he said. “It’s loony to stand in an empty room and act like you’re giving the Gettysburg Address. That happens every day here.”

If Americans want to hear from him, he said, all they have to do is turn on the TV.

“If they are anywhere near a television, they will be watching me over the course of the next year because I intend to be making the president’s argument, forcefully, frequently and in the mediums that are consumed by the American people.” — Rebecca Morin