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Rep. Matt Gaetz appears to threaten to embarrass Michael Cohen



Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican on the House Oversight Committee, drew swift backlash after sending out a tweet in which he appeared to threaten to release embarrassing details about Michael Cohen’s personal life on the eve of Cohen’s testimony before the panel.

“Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends?” Gaetz tweeted. “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.”

Cohen is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday morning. Gaetz’s tweet came on the heels of a Wall Street Journal report that said Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime former lawyer and fixer, plans to accuse Trump of criminal conduct in office during the hearing.

Gaetz’s tweet raised red flags among some legal experts, who said the congressman’s statements could be seen as attempted witness intimidation and obstruction of justice.

Ken White, a criminal defense attorney at Brown, White, and Osborn LLP, wrote, “Dear Representative @mattgaetz …. are you represented by federal criminal defense counsel?”

“It sure seems like you’re threatening Michael Cohen that if he testifies before Congress you, or people aligned with you, will bring out embarrassing details about him,” White continued. “There’s a whole bunch of obstruction statutes, sir, and if you’re threatening to reveal embarrassing information to deter a witness from testifying before Congress, I think you need advice about whether you may be violating one or more of them.”

The former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti also chimed in, writing, “This appears to be an attempt to intimidate a witness before he testifies before the House Oversight Committee tomorrow.”

When the Vox reporter Alex Ward asked Gaetz if he had a few minutes to discuss what he implied in his tweet about Cohen, Gaetz replied, “Watch tomorrow.”

“Will do,” Ward said. “Anything I should be prepared for?”

“Fireworks,” Gaetz responded.

Asked whether he had any response to suggestions that he was engaging in witness tampering, Gaetz said, “I’m witness testing. We still are allowed to test the veracity and character of witnesses, I think.”

Gaetz is a staunch ally of the White House and took center stage during several congressional hearings surrounding the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Gaetz, California Rep. Devin Nunes, and several members of the House Freedom Caucus led the charge in investigating accusations of misconduct and surveillance abuse at the highest levels of the FBI and Justice Department.

Gaetz has also joined the White House in coming out swinging against Cohen in recent months, after Cohen pleaded guilty to several felonies and began cooperating with prosecutors. In particular, Trump and his allies say that because Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to investigators, among other things, his word cannot be trusted.

But legal experts told INSIDER that those attacks may be undermined because Cohen reportedly plans to support his claims before the committee with documentary evidence.

Gaetz did not immediately respond to a request for comment from INSIDER.

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