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Florida Bar investigating Rep. Matt Gaetz for Cohen tweet

Posted: 1:16 PM, Feb 27, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-27 16:16:27-05
Florida Bar investigating Rep. Matt Gaetz for Cohen tweet

The Florida Bar is investigating Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz after his threatening tweet last night about President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen.

Francine Andía Walker, the group's director of communications, said the Florida Bar received a number of calls and emails regarding the tweet after it posted.

According to disciplinary guidelines for the group, which is the organization of all lawyers licensed by the Supreme Court of Florida to practice law in the state, the state bar's lawyer regulation arm must determine that an allegation against a bar member "would constitute a violation of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar" before a probe is opened.

On Tuesday night, just hours ahead of Cohen's public testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Gaetz -- a Trump ally -- tweeted at Cohen, "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 later deleted his tweet and issued an apology.

As part of their investigation, Walker said the Florida Bar on Wednesday would send Gaetz a letter outlining the allegation against him. Gaetz will have 15 days to respond.

The Daily Beast first reported the investigation Wednesday.

"It seems that the Florida Bar, by its rules, is required to investigate even the most frivolous of complaints," said Jillian Lane Wyant, a spokeswoman for Gaetz, when asked for a response to the investigation.

A state bar investigation is not a criminal probe, and in Florida, there are further layers of investigation that the probe will go through before any potential disciplinary action is brought down by the Florida Supreme Court.

Rules regulating the Florida Bar say that "a lawyer's conduct 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."