The Florida State Bar Association has reportedly opened an ethics investigation following the “high volume of calls and emails” about Rep. Matt Gaetz.
“The Florida Bar is aware of the comments made in a tweet yesterday by Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is a Florida Bar member, and I can confirm we have opened an investigation,” Francine Andía Walker, the Florida Bar’s communications director, said in a statement according to Fox News.
The Florida Republican came under heavy fire this week after comments directed at President Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, on the eve of his testimony before Congress.
“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 wrote in a since-deleted tweet.
He defended his remarks to reporters on Wednesday, saying, “we’re witness testing, not witness tampering.”
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
And while House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said he did not think Gaetz was actually threatening Cohen, according to Fox News, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged members to be “mindful” about social media comments, prompting an apology from Gaetz and clarification that ” it was NOT my intent to threaten.”
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
He also tweeted that he had apologized to Cohen personally.
I’ve personally apologized to @MichaelCohen212 4 referencing his private family in the public square. Regardless of disagreements, family members should be off-limits from attacks from representatives, senators & presidents, including myself. Let’s leave the Cohen family alone.
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) February 28, 2019
Rep. Kathleen Rice called for the House Ethics Committee to investigate Gaetz’s tweet, according to Fox News.
“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,” the New Jersey Democrat wrote. “According to the Department of Justice … this statute applies to proceedings before Congress.”
Stacey Plaskett, a nonvoting delegate for the Virgin Islands in the House of Representatives, addressed the tweet and directly named Gaetz during Cohen’s public testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.
“I want to apologize for the inappropriate comments and tweets that have been made by other members of this body, and as a former prosecutor, and as a former counsel on House ethics, I think at the very least there should be referral to the Ethics Committee of witness intimidation or tampering under U.S.C. 15.12 of my colleague Matt Gaetz, and it may be possible of him being referred for criminal prosecution,” Plaskett said.
— Rev. Scott Anthony (@ScottAnthonyUSA) February 27, 2019
The Florida Bar opens an investigation “any time the words or actions of a Florida lawyer result in complaints,” Walker noted in the statement from the state Bar.
“If rules have been violated, The Florida Bar will vigorously pursue appropriate discipline by the Florida Supreme Court,” Walker said. “The Florida Bar takes its responsibility of regulating lawyer conduct very seriously,” adding that it pursues discipline against lawyers “whose professional conduct is not in keeping with the rules.”
Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs slammed the attempt to “intimidate a U.S. Congressman who is exercising his right to speech.”
Lou Dobbs says the Florida Bar Association is trying to “intimidate” Rep. Matt Gaetz pic.twitter.com/DcDlsvA9ix
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) February 28, 2019
Twitter users weighed in on the implication of an investigations over tweets and the hypocrisy of Democrats.
Do people really want to open the pandora’s box by applying criminal intent to tweets? Goodbye social media if that happens.
— Danny Peoples (@Danny99634068) February 27, 2019
An idiotic tweet worthy of ridicule, versus being groomed by Adam Schiff and Co. before appearing.?
— Timothy Webb (@Webb_Said) February 27, 2019
Too many Dems and Reps who also need to be investigated for ethics violations…some recent racist remarks and tweets from freshman congress members as well as older comments and social media remarks that were disgusting and unethical in every way. Made by those in both parties.
— Pamela Ziomek (@pamelina42) February 27, 2019
How about all @TheDemocrats that convicted Judge Kavanugh before the facts came out? They too should be referred to the ethics committee & possibly face criminal prosecution, right? Only fair!
— Al (@Alveeno007) February 27, 2019
Democrats probably shouldnt go down this road.
— Number6 (@petercast8) February 27, 2019
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