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Florida Bar will investigate Matt Gaetz's threat against Cohen

WASHINGTON – The Florida Bar announced Wednesday it had opened an investigation into whether Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican state official, had breached his rules of conduct when he had threatened to disclose his belongings extramarital abuse by a Congressional witness, Michael D Cohen

Gaetz's threat appeared on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, as former US lawyer and former President Trump's adviser, Mr. Cohen, prepared for explosive public statements before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. , in which he eventually implicated his former leader in federal crimes unsavory acts. Gaetz, 36, is one of Trump's most virulent allies on Capitol Hill. His public statements have often been criticized by Democrats.

"Hey @ MichaelCohen212 – Are your wife and father-in-law aware of your friends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for this cat. I wonder if she will remain faithful when you are in prison. She's about to learn a lot, "wrote Gaetz in his tweet, which he suppressed and excused.

Democrats have said that Gaetz's remarks could be intimidating witnesses and several lawmakers have asked that his comments be investigated by the House Ethics Committee. Francine Andía Walker, a spokeswoman for the Florida Bar, said on Wednesday that the organization had opened its investigation after reading the comments but could not give further details. The Florida Bar allows lawyers to practice in that state.

"Whenever the words or actions of a Florida lawyer give rise to complaints, the Florida Bar will conduct a thorough investigation of these complaints through its established grievance procedure. whether the bar rules have been violated, "she said. "It handles thousands of complaints each year, files a complaint and sues lawyers whose professional conduct is not in accordance with the rules."

Mr Gaetz said Tuesday that he was only asking questions about the "veracity and character" of a congressional witness, without attempting to intimidate him.

On Wednesday, he said in a text message that he had not been contacted by the Florida Bar, but had indicated that he was not worried.

"It seems that the Florida Bar, by its rules, is required to investigate even the most frivolous complaints," he said.

As a member of Congress, Mr. Gaetz is protected by the "speech or debate" clause of the Constitution, which gives legislators wide latitude to speak during Congress sessions. It has often been cited in the past as protection against sanctions.

Under Under federal law, threatening or intimidating a person to influence, delay or otherwise prevent that person from testifying in official proceedings, including at a congressional hearing. But it is unclear whether a remark such as that of Mr. Gaetz – made ambiguously on social media – would be admissible. It is also unclear whether the protections of the speech and congressional debates would give it legal cover.

Gaetz removed his tweet late Tuesday after California President Nancy Pelosi warned that such comments could undermine the oversight committee's ability to "get the complete and truthful information needed."

"I should have chosen words that better reflect my intention," he wrote in response to Ms. Pelosi. "I am sorry."

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