House ethics: Gaetz broke rules, not law, with Cohen tweet

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., listens during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on antitrust on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Washington. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP) (Graeme Jennings)

WASHINGTON – The House Ethics Committee on Friday said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., broke House rules but not the law when he tweeted a warning last year to President Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Cohen was preparing explosive testimony before a House panel abut Trump's conduct when Gaetz tweeted on Feb. 26, 2019, “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...”

Later that day after a backlash, Gaetz deleted the post and said that it had not been his intent to threaten Cohen.

The Ethics Committee reported Friday that Gaetz's tweet was an appropriate cause for concern. But the panel did not find that Gaetz “had the requisite intent to establish a violation of the federal criminal statues prohibiting witness tampering and obstruction of Congress.”

Gaetz's conduct, however, violated House Rule XXIII, which requires members to act “in a manner that reflects creditably” on the chamber, according to the report.

While the committee admonished Gaetz, one of the mildest forms of punishment, its report pointed out that its members do not consider it the “social media police.”