House Ethics Committee investigating complaint that Rep. Gaetz tried to threaten Cohen

Posted at 12:54 PM, Jun 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-28 15:53:05-04

The House Ethics Committee announced Friday it was investigating a complaint that Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz tried to threaten Michael Cohen ahead of his congressional testimony.

The day before Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, appeared before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in February, Gaetz tweeted something at Cohen that critics labeled witness intimidation.

“Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot,” Gaetz tweeted.

Gaetz, a Florida congressman who’s a close ally to the President, did not offer proof or details to back up his tweet. He soon deleted the message and apologized to Cohen.

Later that week, Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York sent a letter to the House Ethics Committee asking for an investigation. Rice, a former federal prosecutor, wrote that she believes the GOP lawmaker’s comments could rise to the level of witness tampering and intimidation. She later submitted a formal complaint on March 13, according to her office.

Upon receiving the formal complaint, the committee requested an interview with Gaetz but was denied. Since the issue had not been resolved by June 24 — a deadline set by the committee — the panel launched an investigative subcommittee to consider the complaint.

“The Committee notes that the mere fact of establishing an Investigative Subcommittee does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred,” the committee wrote.

In a statement to CNN, Gaetz maintained he won’t participate in the investigation.

“If members of Congress want to spend their time psychoanalyzing my tweets, it’s certainly their prerogative,” he said. “I won’t be joining them in the endeavor.”

Meanwhile, the Florida Bar announced last month it would proceed with an investigation, which could take three to six months. Gaetz previously worked as an attorney in Florida before he entered politics.

Gaetz responded to that investigation in May. “I’m very confident that the Bar won’t impair my vigorous and successful representation of my district,” he said.