According to The Daily Beast, the Florida Bar has opened an investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), after the lawmaker appeared to threaten Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, before his congressional testimony on Wednesday.
Spokesperson for the bar, Francine Walker, said the bar is “quite aware of [Gaetz’s] comments… and we have opened an investigation.”
“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.”
Gaetz, who was reached by text on Wednesday, said that he hadn’t “seen anything like that.”
Gaetz is a licensed attorney in Florida and a staunch ally of the president. On Tuesday, he sent a tweet that appeared to threaten Cohen for his testimony against Trump.
In his since-deleted tweet, Gaetz wrote: “Hey @MichaelCohen212, 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 initially defended the tweet, saying, “This is what it looks like to compete in the marketplace of ideas.” Later he apologized, saying, “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.”
Some lawyers argued that Gaetz engaged in witness intimidation by saying there would be repercussions for Cohen once he went to prison.
“It’s that last line that seems really problematic,” emailed Stephen Vladeck, a professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law. “‘She’s about to learn a lot…’ What is the test implied in that statement, as opposed to the insinuation that as a result of his testimony, his wife is going to come into negative information about him?”
The rules for the Florida Bar state that lawyers “should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer’s business and personal affairs” and “should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others.”
“While it is a lawyer’s duty, when necessary, to challenge the rectitude of official action, it is also a lawyer’s duty to uphold legal process,” the rules say.