Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz deleted a tweet and has apologized for its contents after some people complained that it was threatening of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who is testifying before Congress on Wednesday.
ABC News retrieved a copy of the now-deleted tweet which reportedly read: “Hey [Cohen] – 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…”
The tweet was quickly deleted after some backlash, but not before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saw it and issued a statement reminding House members to be careful with what they post on social media. Although she did not specifically mention Gaetz, she encouraged the House Ethics Committee to look into “these types of statements.”
“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,” Pelosi said.
“As a result, such statements can be construed as not reflecting credibility on the House, and the committee on ethics should vigilantly monitor these types of statements, which may not be protected by the speech or debate clause.”
Gaetz responded to Pelosi and apologized for the contents of the tweet. Gaetz said it was not his intention to threaten Cohen, but to create a context for his testimony: “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.”
Democrat Congresswoman Kathleen Rice also responded to the controversy and said the tweet constituted witness tampering, ABC News reports.
“As a former District Attorney and federal prosecutor, I believe this statement is in violation of 18 U.S. Code 1512, which clearly defines witness tampering and intimidation,” Rice said in a letter to the House Ethics Committee, via ABC News. “According to the Department of Justice … this statute applies to proceedings before Congress.”
ABC News adds:
Rice, who encouraged the committee to refer the matter to the Justice Department after an investigation, discussed the tweet with Gaetz on the House floor Tuesday evening, according to a source familiar with their conversation.
Under its rules, the House ethics panel could launch an investigation into the matter from the referral. A committee official declined to comment on Rice’s referral.
After a committee investigation, the panel could eventually recommend the House vote to reprimand, censure or fine Gaetz, Bryson Morgan, a former investigative counsel for the House of Representatives Office of Congressional Ethics, told ABC News.
The panel could also recommend expulsion, which would require a two-thirds majority of the chamber.
Gaetz was approached by a group of reporters and asked if the tweet was intended to threaten Cohen.
The Florida Republican responded, “absolutely not.”
“We’re witness testing, not witness tampering. And when witnesses come before Congress their truthfulness and voracity ought to be tested and we have the opportunity,” Gaetz said.
Asked whether his tweet attacking Michael Cohen should be perceived as a threat, Rep. Matt Gaetz told reporters, "Absolutely not. We’re witness testing not witness tampering." https://t.co/Qg1JcOm5Jh pic.twitter.com/YfBC2weUCC
— ABC News (@ABC) February 27, 2019
I guess tomorrow we'll find out if there's anyone Cohen hasn't lied to!
I think it's entirely appropriate for any member of this body to challenge the truthfulness, veracity, and character for people who have a history and future full of lies.
That's the story of Michael Cohen. pic.twitter.com/SCEODKNteR
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) February 27, 2019