Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz has been one of Donald Trump’s most eager House boot-polishers, but issuing what appears to be an attempt at witness intimidation on the eve of that witness’ public congressional testimony is a brazenly criminal act, to the eyes of many legal experts.
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 sheÃ¢ÂÂll remain faithful when youÃ¢ÂÂre in prison. SheÃ¢ÂÂs about to learn a lot…
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) February 26, 2019
(Always telling when the post is taken down from Twitter, isn’t it??)
This would amount to shocking behavior if it had occurred in the absence of an ongoing House Republican effort to scuttle or sabotage the investigation into Russian election hacking. Republicanism, at least as practiced by its House and Senate members, is at this point little more than an organized crime ring.
Which brings us to an intriguing little question about Rep. Gaetz’s would-be witness bombshell: Just how is it that Matt Gaetz, Florida congressman, allegedly knows secret details of Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer’s home life?
Who told him? And, specifically, to what purpose? Gaetz is not on the committee that will be hearing Cohen’s testimony; he is, in this context, solely a bystander. If Gaetz’s intent is to expose private information learned about Cohen in order to influence his upcoming testimony, he is doing it only as thuggery. (That said, the notion that any human being in Trump’s orbit could be shamed by the exposure of infidelity seems a bit much. Trump himself is accused of serial sexual harassment and assault, the very reason Cohen is set to testify to Congress is over hush money paid in an arrangement to hide multiple affairs, and the top tiers of the Republican National Committee are peppered with enough disgraced ex-executives to fill the tabloids many times over.)
Who told Matt Gaetz about Cohen’s private life? Who might Cohen have confided in, if Gaetz’s information is accurate? Who gave Gaetz the information he is now using in his intimidation attempt—and did that person give it to him with the understanding that he would expose it?
There are only two solid possibilities. The first is Donald J. Trump, the man formerly closest to Cohen and who has himself been aggressive in attempting to drag Cohen’s “father-in-law” into the legal fray. The second is the stupidest and most talkative of Trump’s legal strategists; as shorthand, we will call this group “Rudy Giuliani.”
Knowing just how Rep. Matt Gaetz came to have this theoretically incriminating information would be key in understanding Gaetz’s actions here. It was shared with him by somebody. And it’s almost certain that it was shared by that somebody as a specific attempt to discredit Cohen’s testimony—or dissuade him from giving public testimony at all.
Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell immediately called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate Gaetz for this seemingly obvious effort to intimidate a key witness in multiple federal investigations. He will likely be the first of dozens. And the Department of Justice itself is likely to want to have a word with Rep. Matt Gaetz—not just to probe his intent, but to determine just who, immediately before Cohen’s public testimony, was seeking to make this information public.