GOP Lawmaker Tweets Warning to Cohen Before His Public Testimony
(Bloomberg) -- A top House Republican ally of President Donald Trump delivered a warning to former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen on the eve of Cohen’s scheduled public testimony before a congressional committee investigating the president.
Florida Representative Matt Gaetz implied in a tweet Tuesday that Cohen’s wife is “about to learn a lot” about Cohen, suggesting without offering any evidence that he’s had extramarital affairs -- raising immediate accusations that Gaetz was trying to intimidate Cohen.
Congressional Republicans and Trump’s aides have been attacking Cohen’s credibility, calling him a convicted liar, ahead of his testimony Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Cohen has pleaded guilty to nine felonies, including lying to Congress.
But few have gone as far as Gaetz did in his tweet.
A former federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti, said on Twitter that Gaetz’s tweet “appears to be an attempt to intimidate a witness before he testifies before the House Oversight Committee tomorrow.”
Gaetz dismissed such characterizations on Tuesday evening. “We are still allowed to test the veracity and character of witnesses before Congress, I think,” he said in a text message to Bloomberg News.
He added: “Moreover, do you appreciate the irony” in asking “about intimidating people in re: Michael Cohen? The dude has been a creepy intimidator for awhile.”
Late Tuesday night, however, Gaetz again took to Twitter to offer an apology to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “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.”
Pelosi had said in an earlier message on Twitter -- without referring to Gaetz by name -- that members’ statements on social media “can be construed as not reflecting creditably on the House.” She said the Ethics Committee should monitor such statements, which “may not be protected by the speech or debate clause” of the Constitution, which says members of Congress can’t be prosecuted for their statements as legislators.
Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen, said Gaetz’s comments set “a new low.”
“We will not respond to Mr. Gaetz’s despicable lies and personal smears, except to say we trust that his colleagues in the House, both Republicans and Democrats, will repudiate his words and his conduct,” Davis said in a statement.
Cohen testified behind closed doors before the Senate Intelligence Committee for hours on Tuesday and will do the same on Thursday before the House Intelligence panel. Questions in those sessions will focus in part on his role in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, while his testimony before the oversight panel will focus on what he knows about Trump’s business practices.
Leaving the Senate session Tuesday, Cohen said he looked forward “to being able to in my voice to tell the American people my story and I’m going to let the American people decide exactly who’s telling the truth.”
Gaetz, who went to law school and worked as an attorney, is a member of the Judiciary Committee, but is not on the Oversight panel.
Cohen is scheduled to report to prison on May 6. He had originally been scheduled to testify to Congress in early February, but delayed that appearance, citing threats from Trump.
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