Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) accused former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen of infidelity just hours ahead of the latter's testimony before Congress. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Legal Experts: Trump Loyalist Matt Gaetz Committed 'Witness Tampering' by Threatening Michael Cohen

"If any of my clients did anything remotely close to what Gaetz did, prosecutors would charge witness tampering and obstruction," said one attorney

Jake Johnson

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) "very clearly" committed witness tampering.

That appeared to be the consensus view of legal experts and scholars on social media late Tuesday after the Florida Republican fired off a tweet accusing President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen of infidelity just hours before the latter was set to testify against his former boss in a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing.

"Hey @MichaelCohen212—do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends?" asked Gaetz, a fervent Trump loyalist.

While Gaetz later apologized for and deleted the offending tweet—insisting that it was "not [his] intent to threaten" Cohen—legal analysts were quick to describe the congressman's question as a cut-and-dry case of witness tampering and intimidation.

"If any of my clients did anything remotely close to what Gaetz did, prosecutors would charge witness tampering and obstruction. Haul them before a judge. Ask for detention on Rikers," declared Scott Hechinger, senior staff attorney and director of policy at Brooklyn Defender Services. "But if you're a congressman, you get to question the witness you intimidated the next day."

As Slate's Matthew Dessem put it, "every law professor with a Twitter account" seemed to agree with Hechinger's sentiment.

"Does your personal attorney know you've just engaged, very clearly, in the crime of witness tampering? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat," New York University law professor Ryan Goodman wrote in response to Gaetz's tweet.

Shortly after Gaetz's initial tweet, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) officially requested that the House Committee on Ethics launch an investigation into the Florida congressman's behavior.

"After the House Committee on Ethics thoroughly investigates this matter, I urge you to make any and all appropriate referrals to [the Department of Justice]," Rice wrote in a letter to House Ethics Committee chairman Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.).

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) echoed Rice's call for a probe, describing Gaetz's tweet as "grossly unethical and probably illegal."

Gaetz's accusation against Cohen came on the eve of the former Trump fixer's testimony before Congress Wednesday morning, in which he will call the president a "conman" and accuse him of criminal activity.

"He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat," Cohen will say, according to a copy of his testimony (pdf). "He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Judge Blocks Biden From Continuing 'Inhumane' Trump Policy to Deport Families

"This is not the end of the battle against this practice," said one rights group, "but it is a major step to ensure that the U.S. welcomes these asylum-seeking families—as we should."

Jessica Corbett ·


400+ Economists Press Congress to Permanently Expand Child Tax Credit

Such an expansion would "dramatically reduce childhood poverty in the United States," they said.

Andrea Germanos ·


Biden Admin. Sued for Letting Big Oil Harass 'Imperiled' Polar Bears

"We're hopeful the court will overturn this dangerous rule that puts polar bears in the crosshairs."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Cruel and Callous': Biden Slammed for Resuming Deportations to Battered Haiti

"Hours after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake, President Joe Biden released a statement saying that the United States was a 'friend' of Haiti. A 'friend' does not continuously inflict pain on another friend," said Guerline Jozef of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

Kenny Stancil ·


Indian Civil Society Groups to Biden: Force J&J to Share Vaccine Recipe With the World

"His administration has the moral, legal, and if necessary, financial power to lift intellectual property barriers and persuade J&J to license its vaccine."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo