He was stunned when he heard that Matt Gaetz had sought to tie the Justice Department investigation to an extortion plot related to the Levinson case.

“He threw Levinson and the entire Levinson family under the bus,” Mr. Kent said. “I can’t imagine what these poor people have been through. This guy, to divert attention from himself, has raked up the attention to the family.”

Don Gaetz also taped a phone call and a meeting with David McGee, a Levinson family lawyer, where they discussed the rescue proposal. In an interview, Mr. McGee denied any involvement and suggested Matt Gaetz was conflating the matter inappropriately with his own potential criminal liability.

“He’s trying to distract attention from a pending tidal wave that is about to sink his ship,” Mr. McGee said.

Adam Goldman, Nicholas Fandos and Barry Meier contributed reporting.

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