After widespread outrage from the legal community, the Florida Bar confirmed Wednesday that it’s conducting a probe into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) over the threatening tweet he directed at Michael Cohen.
“The Florida Bar is aware of the comments made in a tweet yesterday by Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is a Florida Bar member, and I can confirm we have opened an investigation,” Francine Walker, the organization’s director of communications, told HuffPost.
On Tuesday evening, Gaetz tweeted at Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, not long after reports broke that Cohen would accuse Trump of criminal activity during his testimony before the House oversight committee the next day.
“Hey [Michael Cohen] – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends?” he asked in the since-deleted post. “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…”
Legal scholars flooded Twitter to say that Gaetz, a licensed attorney and vocal ally of Trump’s, engaged in criminal witness tampering with the threatening message.
Walker said the Florida Bar could not provide any additional details on the investigation at this time but noted that the organization will conduct such a probe ”any time the words or actions of a Florida lawyer result in complaints.”
If it finds that Gaetz or the subjects of any other complaints have violated legal rules, the bar will “vigorously pursue appropriate discipline by the Florida Supreme Court,” she added.
He initially defended himself to The Daily Beast, which first reported on the investigation Wednesday, but later apologized on Twitter, saying, “I should have chosen words that better showed my intent.”
Gaetz brushed off the investigation in a text to New York Times reporter Nicholas Fandos, writing, “It seems that the Florida Bar, by its rules, is required to investigate even the most frivolous complaints.”
Delegate Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat representing the Virgin Islands, said during Cohen’s hearing that Gaetz should be referred to the ethics committee for witness tampering and possibly “referred for criminal prosecution” as well.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated incorrectly that Stacey Plaskett is a representative from New York. She is the delegate from the Virgin Islands.