The House Ethics Committee just announced an investigation into a Florida man who engaged in witness intimidation against Trump’s former personal lawyer.
In late February, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) posted a tweet threatening to expose the convicted ex-Trump Org official Michael Cohen in a blatant attempt to stop him from testifying to Congress. At the time, he was even overheard verbally high-fiving President Trump about his threat to ruin Cohen’s marriage if he starting spilling his guts to the Democrats.
Now, Rep. Gaetz is under investigation by the House Committee on ethics and facing penalties that could range from fines to expulsion from Congress. Here’s the letter released by the committee:
The House Ethics Committee has now established an ethics subcommittee to investigate Rep. Gaetz based on allegations that he "sought to threaten, intimidate, harass or improperly influence" a congressional witness. https://t.co/pqslO70Kzt) https://t.co/pqslO70Kzt pic.twitter.com/SaxuhmwUrf
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 28, 2019
Gaetz’s tweet was the capstone of a months-long GOP campaign to keep Cohen off the stand, which President Trump led with an “obstruction of justice in plain sight” interview on Fox News.
The earlier comments by Trump led Cohen to postpone his planned February 7th, 2019 testimony, ostensibly “fearing for his family’s lives” until later that month with the deadline for him to report to jail looming.
The House Republican pest from northern Florida eventually deleted his February post but drew a ethics complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics from the Democratic Coalition.
However, the Florida congressman didn’t want to answer questions about his threat to the House Ethics Committee when they conducted a preliminary review. That’s why the panel opened a broader inquiry into his attempt to obstruct the House Oversight Committee from interviewing Trump’s former lawyer before he went to jail. The Committee wrote:
“On May 16, 2019, the Committee informed Representative Gaetz that its ability to resolve the complaint would be hindered without his testimony and explained that if the Committee was unable to dispose of the complaint by June 24, 2019, House and Committee Rules would require the Committee to establish an Investigative Subcommittee to review the allegations against him.”
“Because Representative Gaetz did not provide the Committee with testimony, the Committee was unable to dispose of the complaint by the rule-based deadline.”
Today’s new House Ethics investigation marks the start of the formal disciplinary process that could lead to expulsion. The panel could also seek censure, a fine, or some combination of other punishments.
“The House Committee on Ethics has the power to vote to recommend that Rep. Gaetz be expelled from Congress,” Democratic Coalition senior advisor Scott Dworkin told this writer. Dworkin filed the original ethics complaint which OCE can refer to the matter to the committee which opened today’s investigation. “The House has the power to kick out a member that doesn’t follow its rules of conduct with a two-thirds vote. I think these acts warrant expulsion and I think they are criminal offenses.”
Under our Constitution, the Congress has the power to choose its own members and the House has removed only five members to date, most recently the eccentric Ohio Rep. Jim Traficant who was convicted on racketeering charges.
Rep. Gaetz has been described as “everything that is wrong” with the modern Republican party. He’s a major public supporter of the “Proud Boys” hate group and he accepts financial support from a prominent Holocaust denier. Even other Florida men consider Matt Gaetz to be a “terrible person” based on his record.
This new investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz’s obvious attempt to influence Congressional testimony could expose the way the modern GOP’s propaganda networks operate.
It could become yet another example of President Trump conspiring to commit a crime against Congress with a House Republican, but the first where someone actually gets punished.
Follow Grant Stern on Twitter @grantstern and check out his first book, Meet the Candidates 2020: Elizabeth Warren and Meet the Candidates 2020: Kamala Harris is on sale today, as part of his Meet the Candidates 2020 Series.