“I don’t want to make light of anybody’s substance abuse issues,” Gaetz said during the Judiciary Committee’s markup of articles of impeachment. “But it’s a little hard to believe that Burisma hired Hunter Biden to resolve their international disputes when he could not resolve his own dispute with Hertz rental car leaving cocaine and a crack pipe in the car.”
Biden, who has struggled with addiction, was paid $50,000 a month by Burisma but had no apparent relevant experience for the position. Republicans argue he was hired merely because his father, Joe Biden, was vice president at the time.
Gaetz, one of President Trump’s fiercest defenders, was seeking an amendment to the impeachment articles that would have stricken the name of Joe Biden and replaced it with his son’s and Burisma, but his edit proposal was quickly overshadowed by a Democratic committee member’s pointed response — an exchange that left the room silent and highlighted the increasingly acrimonious impeachment process.
“I would say that the pot calling the kettle black is not something that we should do,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (Ga.) in a not-so-subtle jab at Gaetz, who was arrested in 2008 for driving under the influence.
“I don’t know what members, if any, have had problems with substance abuse, been busted in a DUI,” said Johnson, glancing to his left, toward Gaetz. “I don’t know, but if I did, I wouldn’t raise it against anyone on this committee. I don’t think it’s proper.”
Gaetz didn’t respond, and other lawmakers in the room — rarely at a loss for words — were quiet for 15 awkward seconds.
Later that afternoon, Gaetz told CNN’s Manu Raju that he “didn’t pay much attention” to Johnson’s comments.
“I’m focused on the president,” Gaetz said. “I don’t think Americans are hanging on a traffic incident I had a decade ago.”
Gaetz, whose district covers the western Florida Panhandle, was pulled over 11 years ago on the night before Halloween, as he drove home from a nightclub called the Swamp on Okaloosa Island, Fla. Gaetz, then 26, was never convicted, but local media has raised questions about whether he received preferential treatment because his father, Don Gaetz, was a state senator.
Police stopped Matt Gaetz after clocking his 2001 BMW SUV going 48 mph in a 35 mph zone, the Tampa Bay Times reported. An officer asked if Gaetz had been drinking, and Gaetz denied it, according to the Times, though he admitted minutes later that he had consumed two beers.
Then a lawyer, Gaetz refused field sobriety and breath tests, the Times reported, and was arrested.
“I made bad decisions that resulted in an arrest, and that is sort of something that we all live with,” Gaetz told the paper in 2014, when he was a member of the Florida House of Representatives.
The arresting officer resigned after an internal affairs report found he used unreasonable force when making another DUI arrest, the Times reported. The prosecutor then asked to be taken off the case because his stepson was friends with Gaetz; another prosecutor agreed to drop the charges.
That year, Gaetz told the Northwest Florida Daily News that the dismissed case was proof of his innocence, saying, “I’m just pleased the truth has come out.”
After their exchange on Thursday, Johnson, who didn’t mention Gaetz by name in his remarks and implied that doing so would be improper, posted a video of himself to his Twitter account.
He wrote: “Clapped back at @RepMattGaetz for being the pot that called the kettle black.”
Rachael Bade contributed to this report.