10 Things in Politics: Matt Gaetz classmates dish on his past

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Here’s what we’re talking about today:

  • Insider spoke to 21 of Rep. Matt Gaetz’s former high-school classmates. Some aren’t surprised by the scandal.
  • The US is reportedly set to kick out Russian diplomats over election interference and the SolarWinds hack
  • How Biden escapes the White House bubble

1. GAETZ-GATE GOES ON: Some of Rep. Matt Gaetz’s high school classmates said they could see a scandal coming. One recalls a 2009 dinner with Gaetz where he pulled out his phone to show off a “definitely sexual” photo. Others say the now Florida congressman was quick to drop his dad’s name when he was teenager, sometimes as a thinly veiled threat. In total, Insider spoke to 21 of Gaetz’s classmates.

Here’s some of what they told my colleagues:

  • A photo of “a private moment” at a wedding rehearsal dinner: Erin Scot said Gaetz appeared to be bragging about his relationship with a woman while showing a photo. Scot described the picture as of a woman “like she was on a bed and maybe as she’s looking at the camera like on all fours.”
  • A debate teammate recalled Gaetz threatening a teammate with his dad’s political sway: “He was, like, ‘You don’t speak like that to me, or I’m going to call my dad and have him call some people at Dartmouth so your admission gets withdrawn,” the teammate told Insider.

Niceville’s class of 2000 alumni page is a hotbed of Gaetz chatter: Moderators of the page have tried to rein it in, though.

Matt Gaetz’s high-school classmates have been gossiping about him in a Facebook alumni group.Facebook

Read more in our exclusive report.

More headaches for Gaetz: Joel Greenberg, the congressman’s former confidant, made 150 Venmo payments to dozens of young women, including to someone who was 17 at the time, The Daily Beast reports. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing, including every paying for sex or having sex with a minor. 

Gaetz has a unique response planned: He is making a six-figure ad buy for a spot that attacks CNN. The ad will air in his district and nationally on some cable channels, Politico reports.

2. Biden says the decision to end the war in Afghanistan was “absolutely clear”: He announced the withdrawal of all US troops by September 11. He was in the same room where President George W. Bush announced the first strikes of what became America’s longest war.

  • Key quote: “I’m now the fourth United States President to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan: two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.”

Veterans of the war are torn about the decision: “There’s no easy answer, no victory dance, no ‘we were right and they were wrong,” Jason Dempsey, 49, who deployed twice to Afghanistan, told The New York Times.

3. Inside how Biden escapes the White House bubble: He has described living in 1600 Penn. as “a little like a gilded cage.” But even when Biden leaves D.C. for Delaware, the bubble follows. President Obama once described the experience by pointing out that the Secret Service tracked his every activity, including bathroom trips.

4. The CDC isn’t sure yet when the Johnson & Johnson pause will end: An expert panel recommended not lifting the pause yet, citing a need for more data. It’s unclear if the vaccine specifically caused six women to develop clots. We did learn more about the cases in question.

  • Just 3 governors haven’t gotten their vaccine: Here’s why they’re waiting.

Insider

Airlines rejected CDC guidance to block middle seats: Major carriers like Delta, United, and Southwest deferred comment on the recommendation to a trade group that confirmed they are not advising airlines to reopen the middle seat debate. Delta is the only major carrier still blocking middle seats, but that is scheduled to stop on May 1. 

5. The US is reportedly set to kick out Russian diplomats over election interference and the SolarWinds hack: The sanctions, which could be announced as soon as today, would apply to roughly a dozen individuals and 20 other entities, Bloomberg News reports. The US could expel as many as 10 Russian diplomats.

6. Former cop charged with manslaughter in Daunte Wright’s death: Former Brooklyn Center officer Kimberly Potter was charged with second-degree manslaughter. 

  • A more peaceful night in Brooklyn Center: Protesters gathered outside the Minneapolis suburb’s police station for the fourth night, but there were some major changes in how things unfolded, the Star Tribune reports. Law enforcement made fewer arrests and did not deploy tear gas. For the second straight night, there were no reports of looting. More on what happened.

7. The top things for your calendar, all times Eastern: 

  • 10:15 a.m.: Derek Chauvin’s trial resumes
  • 10:45 a.m.: Speaker Pelosi’s weekly news conference
  • 11:30 a.m.: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s weekly news conference
  • 12:30 p.m.: Jen Psaki holds the White House’s daily news briefing
  • 1:00 p.m.: The Capitol Police watchdog testifies about the January 6 insurrection
  • 2:00 p.m.: Biden and Vice President Harris meet with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Executive Committee

8. Senate votes overwhelmingly to move forward on hate crime legislation: “Led by Democrats Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Rep. Grace Meng of New York, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act will require federal officers to ‘facilitate the expedited review’ of hate crimes.” A 92-6 vote brings the legislation closer to passing, but there could still be some difficulties. Here are the six Republicans that voted against it.

  • Meanwhile in the House: The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill establishing a commission on reparations, and the proposal will now receive a full House vote for the first time since it was introduced 32 years ago. The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted to move forward on making DC the 51st state — that legislation is expected to pass the House next week.

Financier Bernard Madoff arrives at Manhattan Federal court on March 12, 2009 in New York City. Madoff is scheduled to enter a guilty plea on 11 felony counts which under federal law can result in a sentence of about 150 years.Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

9. Bernie Madoff’s legacy of historic fraud: Madoff carried out the biggest Ponzi scheme in US history before going to prison in 2009. He died of apparent natural causes at 82 years old, the AP reports. More on what he leaves behind.

10. Almost perfect: “Through eight innings, White Sox pitcher Rodon faced 24 batters from the Cleveland Indians, and none of them got further than stepping up to home plate.” But the ninth spelled the end of his perfect game. How the final crazy inning unfolded.

One last thing.

Today’s trivia question: Today marks the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. But do you know what president was the inspiration for this middle name? Email your guess and a suggested question to me at [email protected]

  • Yesterday’s answer: The caucus room of the Russell Senate Office building was inaugurated by the Titanic hearings, the gripping investigation into the demise of the “unsinkable ship.” For a more light-hearted marking of the anniversary, check out SNL’s interview with the iceberg.

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