WC is watching Michael Cohen do his best John Dean to the U.S. House on Oversight and Reform.1 Yesterday, Representative Matt Gaetz (R, FL) on the eve of Michael Cohen’s testimony to Congress, issued a tweet:
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.
Yes, he withdrew the tweet and nearly apologized. But there are two things about the tweet and Gaetz’s conduct that might illustrate why he is an idiot.
First, Cohen’s criminal sentence is a consequence of his loyalty to Donald Trump. Cohen lied at the direction of Trump. When Cohen was caught, Trump cut him off at the knees. Trump called him “a rat.” The message, the lesson, should be that there are no good results from loyalty to Trump. Only bad consequences. Rep. Gaetz seems to have missed that lesson. As Gaetz mocked Cohen, calling him a liar and threatening to brand him an adulterer, he forgot that the man Gaetz was defending, Donald Trump, would at the least sign of trouble, treat Gaetz as he has treated Cohen,
Second, Gaetz’s statement might be sufficient evidence to support a criminal indictment for obstruction of justice. Gaetz attempted to walk his earlier tweet back:
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.
The U.S. Criminal Code provides, at 18 U.S.C. §1512(b):
(1) influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding;
(2) cause or induce any person to—
(A) withhold testimony, or withhold a record, document, or other object, from an official proceeding;
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.
Notably, Mr. Gaetz did not deny he was attempting to intimidate Cohen. In particular, the threat to brand him as an adulterer, and to speculate on the loyalty of Cohen’s wife, is so far beyond “creat[ing] a context” for Cohen’s testimony that “context” is completely out of sight. It’s intimidation, pure and simple. And it is a crime. Congress members enjoy immunity from crimes like this, but it’s not clear to WC that the immunity extends to tweets.
Also notably, Mr. Gaetz committed this possible crime in defense of Donald Trump, in an effort to discredit Cohen. Any trial lawyer will tell you that attempts to discredit a witness – to attack a witness’s credibility – are very dangerous and can easily backfire on the questioner. Cohen brought hard evidence, not just testimony, and it’s notable that the Republicans on the committee, like Gaetz, are ignoring that hard evidence.
Finally, at least to this point, not one of the Republican members of the Committee has attempted to defend Trump. Only to attack Cohen. If you needed more evidence Trump’s conduct has been indefensible, there you have it.
WC hopes that voters watching this political drama play out understand what is happening: That Gaetz and his fellow Trump supporters are making exactly the mistake Cohen made. And can expect the same kind of consequences.
- John Dean, for those who are too young to have lived through the Watergate scandals, was President Richard Nixon’s personal lawyer, and it was his testimony to Congress that started the long, slow fall of Nixon. The sense of deja vù is very strong. ↩