June 28, 2019 / 6:33 PM / 5 months ago

Congress ethics panel probes Gaetz over ex-Trump lawyer Cohen

FILE PHOTO: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks with the media about the memo released by the House Intelligence Committee in Washington, U.S., February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee said on Friday it will investigate Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz after allegations he tried to threaten and influence the congressional testimony of President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen.

Gaetz came under scrutiny earlier this year for a Twitter post that critics said was meant to intimidate Cohen the night before his public testimony on Capitol Hill. The tweet suggested that compromising information about Cohen’s private life might soon be released.

“Hey @MichaelCohen212 - Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat,” Gaetz tweeted on Feb. 26. “I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot.”

The Ethics Committee said it received a complaint in March from a member of Congress about Gaetz, a second-term Republican from Florida’s Panhandle who is closely allied with Trump.

An investigative subcommittee was established to review the allegations after Gaetz declined an interview request, the committee said in a statement Friday.

“If members of Congress want to spend their time psychoanalyzing my tweets, it’s certainly their prerogative. I won’t be joining them in the endeavor,” Gaetz said in an emailed statement.

The Florida Bar said shortly after Gaetz’s Twitter post that it had opened an investigation into the comments. That investigation is now before a grievance committee, spokeswoman Francine Walker said Friday.

Cohen, the president’s one-time “fixer” who turned against his former boss, began serving a three-year federal prison sentence in May after pleading guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Tom Brown

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