Even Matt Gaetz is calling for Florida GOP Chair Christian Ziegler to resign

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Even Matt Gaetz is calling for Florida GOP Chair Christian Ziegler to resign

Christian Ziegler, the embattled Florida Republican chairman who has resisted growing calls to step down from his position amid allegations of sexual battery, including rape, has lost Rep. Matt Gaetz.

“We’re at the posture where we would be better served with different leadership in the Republican Party, and I think it’s time to move on and select a different leader,” Gaetz told NBC News about Ziegler on Friday. “I do think he should step aside.”

Gaetz has apparently changed his mind since making his earlier “wait and see” comments on the criminal investigation into Ziegler. “Given my experience I tend to wait for the facts to come out before rendering judgment,” Gaetz told Florida Politics in early December.

Part of Gaetz’s experience includes a Justice Department investigation for alleged crimes related to sex trafficking and obstruction of justice, but the department decided not to bring charges against him in February. The House Ethics Committee also launched a probe into Gaetz on related allegations, and the investigation is reportedly still ongoing. The Florida Republican has denied any wrongdoing.

Ziegler is being investigated by the Sarasota police over a rape allegation made by a woman who had known Ziegler and his wife for two decades. According to a search warrant affidavit shared with NBC News, Ziegler told police that he had sex with the woman but that it was consensual. His wife, Bridget Ziegler, told investigators that the trio had a consensual sexual encounter last year.

“We are confident that once the police investigation is concluded that no charges will be filed and Mr. Ziegler will be completely exonerated,” Ziegler’s attorney, Derek Byrd, said in a statement.

Yet the fallout from the allegations — and from Bridget Ziegler’s reported acknowledgement of the couple’s relationship with the woman — has continued. Nearly every prominent Republican official in Florida has urged Ziegler to step down from his position.

Ziegler has so far remained defiant. He also had to fend off recent reports that he asked for a $2 million payout to resign. With the Florida GOP set to convene for an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the scandal, it may only be a matter of time before a decision is made for him.

Clarissa-Jan Lim

Clarissa-Jan Lim is a breaking/trending news blogger for MSNBC Digital. She was previously a senior reporter and editor at BuzzFeed News.

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