In February 2019, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) tweeted and then deleted an ill-advised missive aimed at Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, the day before Cohen was to testify against Trump before a congressional committee.
It has now been revealed, following a review of the matter by the House Ethics Committee, that Gaetz reached out to Fox News host Sean Hannity for advice amid the fallout, the Washington Examiner reported.
On Feb. 26, 2019, Gaetz tweeted, “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 …”
Some viewed the tweet as an attempt to intimidate and threaten the attorney.
Following an immediate outcry, including a non-specific reprimand from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) against tampering with or threatening committee witnesses, Gaetz deleted the tweet — but the damage had already been done and a complaint was filed with the Ethics Committee shortly thereafter.
The committee proceeded to investigate the incident and a final report on the matter was just recently released.
According to the report, the committee found that while Gaetz “did not violate witness tampering and obstruction of Congress laws,” he failed to meet the standards expected of members of the House and deserved admonishment.
Conciliatory council from … Sean Hannity?
Attached as exhibits to the report were screenshots of a text conversation Gaetz had with Hannity on the following day, Feb. 27. In the texts, the congressman expressed concern that his law license could be in danger over the tweet, a reference to the fact that the Florida Bar had opened an investigation, in which he was later cleared of wrongdoing.
In texts, Hannity told the Gaetz that he was “smart” to have deleted the tweet and suggested that the controversy would eventually blow over and be forgotten if he kept a low profile for a little while.
In the meantime, he also suggested that Gaetz privately reach out to Cohen through his attorney, Lanny Davis, and offer an apology for what had been said in the tweet. Hannity further advised that Gaetz allow him to review any message to Cohen and Davis prior to it being sent.
Exhibits attached to the report show that Gaetz did exactly that, with the apology later being made public as well. While the congressman had some sharp back-and-forths with Davis, Cohen graciously thanked him for the apology.
In retrospect, Gaetz has acknowledged that he never should have posted the initial tweet, or at the very least should have been more thoughtful about the words he chose to use. “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,” he tweeted shortly after deleting the original tweet. “I’m deleting the tweet & I should have chosen words that better showed my intent. I’m sorry.”