Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has been one of President Trump’s most dogged defenders in the House of Representatives.
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Now, his actions on behalf of the president have placed his law license in jeopardy as the grievance committee of the Florida Bar Association has agreed to investigate Gaetz for a tweet he sent in February to former Trump attorney Michael Cohen containing an implied threat.
Representative Gaetz sent the since-deleted tweet on the eve of Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee and was immediately accused of attempting to intimidate Trump’s former confidant from delivering the damning information he subsequently revealed in his appearance before the committee.
The congressman’s actions were controversial enough at the time he sent the tweet that Nouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi was motivated to issue a statement reminding members of Congress that their social media posts can interfere with congressional committees work in conducting oversight investigations.
I encourage all Members to be mindful that comments made on social media or in the press can adversely affect the ability of House Committees to obtain the truthful and complete information necessary to fulfill their duties. https://t.co/NDnxkaiFCA pic.twitter.com/DIIgSHgeb5
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) February 26, 2019
Legal experts such as the former director of the Office of Government Ethics under President Obama, Walter Shaub, opined that Gaetz’s post amounted to nothing less than illegal witness intimidation and tampering.
The criticism led to an apology from Gaetz who subsequently removed the original tweet from his feed, claiming that it was not his intention to threaten anyone.
Speaker, I want to get the truth too. While it is important 2 create context around the testimony of liars like Michael Cohen, it was NOT my intent to threaten, as some believe I did. I’m deleting the tweet & I should have chosen words that better showed my intent. I’m sorry. https://t.co/Rdbw3sTQJD
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) February 27, 2019
According to a report in The Tampa Bay Times:
“The grievance committee will assign the case to an investigator who will interview witnesses and review evidence. The investigator will then make a recommendation to the committee. It could take up to 6 months,” the paper reports.
“If the committee finds probable cause, a formal complaint will be filed with the Supreme Court of Florida for a trial,” it added.
While such cases in Florida are typically settled before reaching the trial phase, the action of the Florida Bar towards Congressman Gaetz at least provides a modicum of accountability for the right-wing representative’s shameful attempt at perverting the course of justice by trying to coerce a witness into withholding their testimony.
Hopefully, Gaetz and other GOP Trump defenders will think twice before trying to pull this kind of stunt again.
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Original reporting by Steve Contorno at The Tampa Bay Times.