The House Ethics Committee ruled a tweet sent out by Rep. Matt Gaetz ahead of Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress last year violated House standards, The Hill reports.
Ahead of the president’s former lawyer’s appearance before lawmakers, Gaetz, R-Fla., accused Cohen of having extramarital affairs on Twitter.
In a Friday report, the Ethics Committee determined that his tweet “did not reflect creditably upon the House of Representatives" and "did not meet the standards by which Members of the House should govern themselves."
The formal rebuke did not involve any findings of obstruction of congressional laws or evidence of witness tampering, according to the report.
The panel noted it felt his tweet attempted to intimidate Cohen before his hearing.
“Hey @MichaelCohen212 — Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends?” Gaetz tweeted a day before Cohen spoke to the House Oversight and Reform Committee about his experiences working with Trump. “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 panel’s ruling was similar to findings reported by a grievance committee of the Florida bar, which found Gaetz's tweet to be "unprofessional" and "reckless.”
The lawmaker initially defended the tweet and told reporters that "we’re witness testing, not witness tampering” before late apologizing that it wasn't his “intent to threaten” Cohen.
The panel opened an investigation in June 2019 after Gaetz initially declined to testify before the Ethics Committee, according to The Hill. Gaetz then agreed to cooperate with the investigation and testified that he “acted improperly regarding [his] own standards" and was "sorry for doing so."
"The Ethics Committee has given me an admonishment. My fellow Northwest Florida Republicans gave me 81% of the vote on Tuesday. I accept both with humility," Gaetz said in a statement to The Hill on Friday.
While the panel ruled that he didn’t break any laws, it noted that his tweet violated the House's code of official conduct requiring lawmakers to "behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House."
The panel's report also warned lawmakers to be careful about what they post on social media.
"The committee is not the social media police. The committee has acknowledged that the fast-pace and wide dissemination of electronic communications, while in some ways a boon to greater transparency between members and their constituents, can lead to embarrassing mistakes and unintended consequences," the report stated.
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