Although for now, President Donald Trump has gotten off the hook for his wide-ranging apparent criminal behavior — his pals aren’t so lucky. This week, the Florida Bar announced that it was moving a case against Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) to the next stage, in which an investigator will do a deep dive into the incident in question and present findings to a grand jury-like body called the Grievance Committee. The case making it to this stage means both that the organization has determined not only that if proven true, the allegations of professional misconduct would warrant sanction, but that there’s evidence warranting further investigation.
Gaetz is in the hot seat for public commentary targeting former longtime Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen on the day before he was set to testify publicly before the House Oversight Committee. He tweeted what amounted to a threat of revealing Cohen’s supposed “girlfriends,” suggesting that the now former lawyer should talk to his wife first who, in the Congressman’s estimation, might not stay faithful to their marriage while Michael was in prison.
Gaetz eventually deleted the tweet but maintains that he essentially wasn’t in the wrong; at the time the initial Florida Bar probe emerged, a Gaetz spokeswoman called an underlying complaint “frivolous,” and now that it’s proceeding to the investigation stage, his team offered:
‘Congressman Gaetz remains confident that the Florida Bar will not impair his vigorous and successful representation of his district.’
It’s not immediately clear what consequences the Congressman could face for his actions, although the probe underway is not a criminal investigation. The latest round of efforts to determine whether he violated legal standards for lawyers could take as long as 6 months; although most cases conclude with a recommendation to the relevant Grievance Committee, the next step would be a case before the state Supreme Court.
Ironically, Gaetz isn’t at all alone among Trump camp members in having harassed Cohen at one point. The president himself has done so repeatedly, suggesting that federal investigators should look into his former associates’ family despite an apparent complete lack of evidence supporting the notion. Even still, presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani parroted the line on national television and told those concerned about Trump’s seeming witness intimidation that he was just defending himself.
Cohen’s testimony has actually wrought hardship for the president. In the wake of his accusations of wide-ranging fraud, investigations have gotten underway inside and outside of Congress with subpoenas to institutions like Trump lender Deutsche Bank. Although Trump has sued to attempt to keep that bank from complying with Congressional demands for information, they’ve reportedly already begun transmitting information to New York Attorney General Letitia James.
This week, Cohen began what’s set to be a three-year prison sentence for crimes including a hush money scheme in which Trump himself was involved while in the White House that targeted women with whom the eventual president had affairs. It’s one of a wide array of areas of legal vulnerability that remain wide open for the president, even in the wake of Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluding his Russia probe.
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