How sincere is this apology from Rep. Matt Gaetz? As sincere as anyone’s who had time to reflect on his sins … and on the statutes for witness tampering. The Florida Republican deleted his tweet that threatened to expose Michael Cohen’s womanizing before his public testimony at the House Oversight Committee (via Twitchy):
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
It wasn’t his “intent to threaten”? Then what pray tell was the intent of the now-deleted tweet? Nice family ya got there, pal …
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…
Sending someone that message by e-mail on the eve of testimony — before court or before Congress — is a classic case of witness intimidation and arguably extortion as well. The point is clearly to discourage the testimony, either in full or in part, by threatening to release damaging information publicly. It seems that Gaetz doesn’t give himself enough credit when he writes, “I should have chosen words that better showed my intent.” It would be difficult to have chosen them better for Gaetz’ purposes.
Gaetz didn’t help himself by doubling down on the House floor not long after the first tweet and a few hours before the retraction. The “does he lie to his own family” shot is the one that counts here:
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
Note well that Gaetz not only gave this speech but promoted it on his Twitter account, too. That tweet remains undeleted — for now, anyway. The speech itself is protected under the Speech and Debate clause of Article I, Section 6, at least in terms of prosecution. That’s unlikely in regard to the tweet too, even if it doesn’t fall under that same privilege, which is not to say that Gaetz didn’t attempt witness intimidation.
However, Nancy Pelosi’s veiled threat to refer Gaetz to the Ethics Committee is likely very real, and certainly appropriate. It’s fine to call Cohen a liar; Cohen admitted to perjury and had just been disbarred for it when Gaetz tweeted out his message and tagged Cohen in it. Threatening to reveal information not previously publicized as a consequence of testifying before Congress is not fine at all. It’s a crime for which others get prosecuted. And perhaps the biggest crime involved, karmically speaking, is turning Michael Cohen into a victim. For that Gaetz should be truly ashamed.