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The tangled tale of the Israel consulate, the Dilbert cartoonist and the Matt Gaetz case

Novak never said he thought the alleged plan to free the hostage was a crime, according to copies of the text messages that were previously reported and whose authenticity were confirmed to POLITICO by Adams.

But on Aug. 31, a federal grand jury indicted a suspect for allegedly trying to defraud Gaetz’s father. The scheme involved a Florida developer, Stephen Alford, who claimed that, in return for financing the hostage rescue, he and another man would use their influence in the federal government to ensure the congressman “receives a presidential pardon, thus alleviating all his legal issues,” the indictment said.

The Consulate General of Israel in New York, where Novak works, declined to comment. Novak, a former CNBC contributor, did not return calls and text messages for comment.

The allegation that a foreign official may be involved in a shakedown scheme of a U.S. congressman — a highly unusual development in its own right — could help provide a fuller picture of a scandal that has captivated the nation’s capital but where many pieces are still unknown. The allegations have been largely overlooked by most media outlets.

The Novak incident is one of the many twists and turns in the Gaetz case, replete with reports of drug-fueled orgies organized by a former local tax collector in Florida, Joel Greenberg, who pleaded guilty to a host of crimes, including sex-trafficking a minor who later became a porn star. He’s cooperating with federal authorities to bring a case against Gaetz in return for leniency. His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 18.

The Gaetz case has jumped from straight news headlines to entertainment. A Gaetz-like congressman is to be featured Thursday in a Law & Order season-premier. And Gaetz was also invoked in a lawsuit against the online “sugar daddy” website SeekingArrangements that was filed against it by the former mistress of golfer Tiger Woods.

The revelations that an employee of a foreign government had represented his involvement in what’s now considered a criminal fraud scheme targeting a sitting congressman doesn’t speak to Gaetz’ guilt or innocence. But the situation is as rare as it is concerning — even if it’s just a matter of appearance — said Ronald E. Neumann, a career former ambassador and president of the American Academy of Diplomacy.

“It’s certainly problematic, if it’s true,” Neumann said. “Anytime you have criminal or potential criminal behavior, and somebody who’s part of a foreign embassy or consulate, it’s a problem.”

Adams, the cartoonist, became a cultural figure in his own right with the rise of Donald Trump, for whom he has expressed admiration.

“People with connections to Israel had a high interest in me during the Trump days. Presumably to influence me,” Adams told POLITICO via text message. “Jake and I shared an interest in the mechanics of persuasion, and in interesting business/political stories in general. Most often the stuff with a persuasion or Israel angle. That was our initial connection … people often tell me their scoops before they hit the news just to build credibility. Might have been that.”

The Gaetz-related messages between the two men, first reported in The American Conservative and subsequently addressed in only a few other articles in conservative media or blogs, started March 27, three days before The New York Times first reported the sex-crimes investigation into the congressman. Novak had only begun working at the consulate earlier that month, according to his Twitter feed.

“Scoop I can’t report: Rep. Gaetz is the subject of a sex with minor…. I trust the source. Charges/accusations apparently ‘very credible’,” Novak wrote to Adams.

After the report became public, Novak then followed up with a “told ya” message to Adams. He also took issue with Gaetz and his father, former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, for decrying what they called the “extortion” plot concerning the Levinson rescue plan.

Though Levinson’s family members and most intelligence officials think he’s dead, a private-sector intelligence operative named Bob Kent tried to make the case the CIA asset was still alive. Kent was also involved in a 2020 rescue effort that was partly financed by the State Department, a person familiar with the matter told POLITICO. In 2021, Kent joined forces with Alford — the developer who was later indicted — to reach out to Don Gaetz to fund another rescue.

But the elder Gaetz thought it was a swindle, reported it to the FBI and wore a wire when, at the suggestion of the two men, he met with a Levinson family attorney named David McGee. McGee was a former federal prosecutor who worked with Kent in the prior effort to free Levinson and who also knew Alford. Alford was indicted Aug. 31.

McGee has denied wrongdoing, as has Kent. McGee was previously involved with yet another rescue attempt, financed with $20 million from Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who wanted his visa to the United States restored.

In the text message exchanges with Novak previously reported, Adams repeatedly cast doubt on the allegations against Gaetz and said “the extortion counterclaim sounds credible. Has witnesses apparently.”

Novak then replied as if he were part of the effort to get Gaetz’s dad to “secretly” fund the rescue mission that was now in jeopardy.

“The backstory is this is screwing up my efforts to free Bob Levinson,” Novak wrote. “I’ve got a commando team leader friend of mine nervously waiting for wire transfers to clear.”

In another exchange, Novak indicted he had knowledge of the negotiations with Don Gaetz, saying “the real documents do not extort. And we only asked for $25 million as an estimate at first. We came way down.”

Months later, the indictment of Alford bore out what Novak said. The charging document accuses Alford of seeking “$15.5 million to carry out the scheme.”

After Novak’s exchange with Adams leaked, Adams said he didn’t know how it became public.

“We have not communicated since,” Adams told POLITICO. “I’m just as confused as you about why Jake had any involvement and why he thought he needed to tell me.”



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