Gaetz, a close ally of the president, tweeted on Tuesday to Cohen saying: "Are your wife and stepfather aware of your friends? Maybe this evening would be a good time for this cat. I wonder if she will remain faithful when you are in prison she is about to learn a lot. "
The statement – which was made the day before Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, testified publicly before Congress – triggered an immediate reaction, including from some Democrats in the House, who suggested that this amounted to intimidation of witnesses.
In a letter sent Tuesday to the president and top Republican of the House Ethics Committee, Rice asks the panel to "immediately investigate" the statement.
"As a former district attorney and federal prosecutor, I think this statement contravenes §1512 of the United States Code of America, §1512, which clearly defines the alteration and the law." 39, intimidation of witnesses, "wrote the Democratic legislator. "According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), this statue applies to proceedings before Congress."
Rice joined the Republican party in the House vote Tuesday night and raised the issue in a face-to-face conversation with the Florida congressman, according to a source close to the discussion. Later, she sent the letter to the ethics committee.
In his letter, Rice wrote: "After the Ethics Committee of the House of Representatives has conducted a thorough investigation into this matter, I urge you to make any appropriate reference to the Ministry of Justice."
Tuesday night, Gaetz posted on Twitter a statement stating that he had decided to delete his previous tweet and apologizing.
In response to a tweet from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said lawmakers should be "aware that comments made on social media or in the press can undermine the ability of the House's committees to do so". to obtain truthful and complete information necessary for the performance of their duties, "said Gaetz. tweeted: "Mr. President, I also want to know the truth.Although it's important to create a context around the testimony of liars like Michael Cohen, it was NOT my intention to threaten, as some people do. believe, I delete the tweet & I should have chosen words that better show my intent.I'm sorry. "
Cohen will testify publicly before the House's oversight committee Wednesday during a large-scale hearing in progress.
The White House has attacked Cohen's credibility, calling him a person who can not be trusted after already pleading guilty to lying to Congress.
Gaetz's congressional office did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment on the letter sent by Rice asking for an investigation into ethics.
A spokesman for the House Ethics Committee declined to comment on the letter.
Gaetz defended his statement to reporters Tuesday night, saying it was not a threat. "Absolutely not, I do not threaten anyone," said Gaetz.
The GOP legislator also stated that his message was not a falsification of a witness, but rather a "witness test".
"This is not a witness tampering – it's a test of witness," Gaetz said. "In Congress, we have an obligation to test the veracity of the information of people who come before us."
Lanny Davis, Cohen's lawyer, said in a statement on Tuesday: "We will not respond to the obnoxious lies and personal remarks of Mr. Gaetz, except to say that we are convinced that his colleagues in the House, Republicans and Democrats, repudiate his words and his conduct. "
Davis also said that "the Congressman has set a new threshold – which in current political culture is hard to imagine as possible".
The chairman of the House Ethics Committee, Florida Democrat Ted Deutch, declined to comment Tuesday night in an interview with CNN what the committee could do about the tweet, but said " members should definitely be aware of the rules of the game. " House."
"The Ethics Committee takes seriously our responsibility to enforce the rules of the House and I can not comment on any matter that may come before us, but we certainly know that members must be aware of the rules of the House that everyone is submissive, "Deutch said.
CNN's Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.