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Matt Gaetz. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Rep. Matt Gaetz's (R-Fla.) communications director Luke Ball resigned on Friday amid a growing scandal over alleged sexual misconduct, per two sources who spoke with Axios. The resignation was first reported by NBC News.

Why it matters: Gaetz is under a federal investigation for alleged sexual misconduct with a 17-year-old girl. The congressman denies the allegation and says he is a victim of political extortion.

  • "The allegations against me are as searing as they are false," Gaetz told Axios' Jonathan Swan in an interview earlier this week.
  • "I believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to criminalize my sexual conduct, you know when I was a single guy."

Yes, but: CNN also reported on Thursday that Gaetz faces a probe into whether any campaign cash was used to pay for girls or women to travel with him.

  • Axios' Alayna Treene reported also earlier this week — before news of the investigation into Gaetz broke — that the 38-year-old representative is considering retirement from Congress in order to become a media personality.

Axios has sent a request for comment to Ball, as well as Gaetz's office.

Go deeper

Retail sales flat in April after huge surge in March

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

April retail sales in the U.S. were unchanged from March, which saw a surge revised up to 10.7%, according to the latest Commerce Department report published Friday.

Why it matters: The U.S. has been entering a period of growing optimism in the wake of the vaccine rollout, falling new COVID-19 cases and deaths, and a slowly recovering labor market. Retail sales were up 51% year-over-year compared to April 2020.

Policy group lays groundwork for "net negative" emissions tech

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new policy roadmap provides Congress and the White House with ways to support the growth of methods to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using everything from existing forests to direct air capture machines.

Driving the news: Recent climate studies, such as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 1.5-degree report, have pointed to the clear need for society to pursue strategies for driving carbon emissions into negative territory by the latter half of the century.

New CDC mask guidance tests risk tolerance

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The CDC announced Thursday that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors.

Why it matters: The U.S. is entering a new stage in the pandemic where the public — vaccinated or not — will need to assess its own risk tolerance in shared spaces.