Representative Matt Gaetz Apologizes to Michael Cohen for Tweet Amid Backlash, Investigation by Florida Bar Association

Representative Matt Gaetz has apologized to Michael Cohen a day after the lawmaker from Florida published a tweet that some interpreted as a threat to President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer ahead of his congressional testimony.

"I've personally apologized to @MichaelCohen212 4 referencing his private family in the public square," Gaetz tweeted Wednesday. "Regardless of disagreements, family members should be off-limits from attacks from representatives, senators & presidents, including myself. Let's leave the Cohen family alone."

I’ve personally apologized to @MichaelCohen212 4 referencing his private family in the public square. Regardless of disagreements, family members should be off-limits from attacks from representatives, senators & presidents, including myself. Let’s leave the Cohen family alone.

— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) February 28, 2019

In an earlier tweet ahead of Cohen's public testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Gaetz suggested that Cohen had cheated on his wife. The menacing tweet led the Florida Bar to open an investigation into Gaetz for potentially violating its rules of professionalism.

"Hey @MichaelCohen212," Gaetz tweeted Tuesday. "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."

Gaetz has denied accusations that he threatened Cohen. "It is challenging the veracity and character of a witness," he told the Daily Beast. "We do it every day. We typically do it during people's testimony."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement hours after Gaetz's tweet that did not reference Gaetz or his tweet, but warned representatives to be heedful of their words.

"I encourage all Members to be mindful that comments made on social media or in the press can adversely affect the ability of House Committees to obtain the truthful and complete information necessary to fulfill their duties," Pelosi said in the statement. "As a result, such statements can be construed as not reflecting the credibility of the House, and the Committee on Ethics should vigilantly monitor these types of statements which may not by the speech or debate clause."

Gaetz later retweeted Pelosi's statement, adding that his intention was not to threaten Cohen.

"Speaker, I want to get the truth too. While it is important 2 create context around the testimony of liars like Michael Cohen, it was NOT my intent to threaten, as some believe I did. I'm deleting the tweet & I should have chosen words that better showed my intent. I'm sorry," Gaetz posted.

Speaker, I want to get the truth too. While it is important 2 create context around the testimony of liars like Michael Cohen, it was NOT my intent to threaten, as some believe I did. I’m deleting the tweet & I should have chosen words that better showed my intent. I’m sorry. https://t.co/Rdbw3sTQJD

— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) February 27, 2019

While Gaetz apologized, the Florida Bar Association confirmed to the Daily Beast that an investigation had been opened and that the association was "quite aware of [Gaetz's] comments," though spokesperson Francine Walker did not disclose any details as to the scope of the investigation.

"If rules have been violated, the Florida Bar will vigorously pursue appropriate discipline by the Florida Supreme Court," Walker told the Daily Beast. "The Florida Bar takes its responsibility of regulating lawyer conduct very seriously."

According to the Florida Bar's rules of conduct, a lawyer's behavior "should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer's business and personal affairs. A lawyer should use the law's procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others. A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers, and public officials. While it is a lawyer's duty, when necessary, to challenge the rectitude of official action, it is also a lawyer's duty to uphold legal process."

Gaetz will have 15 days to respond to any allegations that he violated the Florida Bar's guidelines. Attorneys will then investigate the case. If probable cause is found, the case would then go to the state supreme court to rule and, if needed, issue sanctions.