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House Ethics Committee will look at whether Gaetz’s February tweet about Cohen’s “girlfriends” was a threat
WASHINGTON (CFP) — The House Ethics Committee will investigate whether U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida violated ethics rules when he posted a tweet directed toward President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, on the eve of his testimony to Congress.
In the February 26 tweet, Gaetz asked, “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…”
An ethics subcommittee will investigate whether Gaetz “sought to threaten, intimidate, harass, or otherwise improperly influence” Cohen, according to a committee statement announcing the investigation.
The committee decided to proceed with an investigation after Gaetz, one of Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress, refused a request from the committee to sit for an interview, according to the statement.
After a controversy arose over the tweet, Gaetz deleted it, apologized and denied that his intent was to threaten Cohen, who the next day regaled the House Oversight Committee with details of his years working at the president’s side.
Cohen is currently service a three-year federal prison sentence for tax and bank fraud and campaign finance violations.
Gaetz’s office did not immediately respond to the committee’s statement. But Politico quoted a text message from Gaetz: “If members of Congress want to spend their time psychoanalyzing my tweets, it’s certainly their prerogative. I won’t be joining them in the endeavor. Too busy.“
Gaetz has represented Florida’s 1st District, which covers the state’s western panhandle, since 2017.
The House members on the subcommittee that will handle the complaint against Gaetz includes Democrats Anthony Brown of Maryland and Raja Krishnamoorthi and Republicans Michael Guest of Mississippi and John Rose of Tennessee.
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Committee looking into whether Farenthold lied, used government resources in his political campaigns
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — The House Ethics Committee is investigating whether U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas used government resources in his congressional campaigns and lied to the committee during an ongoing investigation into sexual harassment claims by a former staffer.
Meanwhile, CNN is reporting that a former staffer has told House investigators that she was pressured to perform campaign-related tasks during regular work hours in Farenthold’s congressional office, activity that is not allowed under House rules.
The latest charges are likely to increase pressure on Farenthold, who has already announced that he won’t seek re-election in 2018 after revelations that he used $84,000 of government money to settle a lawsuit by a former staffer who alleged that she was fired after complaining about sexually suggestive comments made to her by the congressman and another male staffer.
In a December 21 news release, the chair and ranking member of the House Ethics Committee — U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks, R-Indiana, and Ted Deutch, D-Florida — announced that their probe of Farenthold had expanded from the original sexual harassment allegations to include allegations that staff resources may have been used on his campaigns, that he or “any person acting on his behalf” may have required staff members to work on his campaigns, and that he “may have made false statements or omissions in testimony to the committee.”
The statement did not give any details to indicate why the probe had expanded.
In response to the Ethics Committee’s statement, Farenthold’s office released a statement to Texas and national media noting that he had previously been cleared of sexual harassment charges by the Office of Congressional Ethics and pledging his full cooperation with the committee’s expanded probe.
CNN reported that former Farenthold staffer Elizabeth Peace told Ethics Committee lawyers that she was pressured to work on Farenthold’s 2016 campaign during regular office hours in her Capitol office, using House-issued computers and her work e-mail account. The network cited a source familiar with Peace’s conversation with the lawyers; she refused comment to CNN, although she did acknowledge talking to committee staff.
Under House rules, congressional staffers are only allowed to work on campaigns on their own time, and they are not allowed to use House resources, such as office space, computers, or email accounts,, to do political work.
In 2014, Farenthold’s former communications director, Lauren Greene, sued for gender discrimination, sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment, alleging that she was fired after complaining about sexually suggestive comments made to her by the congressman and another male staffer. The Office of Congressional Ethics investigated and cleared Farenthold, and he reached a mediated out-of-court settlement with Greene in 2015.
The revelation that $84,000 in taxpayer dollars had been used to pay Greene’s settlement in early December led Farenthold to abandon his 2018 re-election campaign in Texas’s 27th District, which sprawls across the Gulf Coast between Corpus Christi and Houston.
In a statement posted to Facebook on December 14, Farenthold insisted that the sexual harassment charges made against him by Greene were false, but he conceded that a lax management style in his Washington office created a “decidedly unprofessional” work environment — a situation he blamed on his lack of political experience after being elected in 2010.
“I had no idea how to run a congressional office and, as a result, I allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional,” Fahrenthold said. “It accommodated destructive gossip, offhand comments, off-color jokes and behavior that in general that was less than professional.”
“And I allowed the personal stress of the job to manifest itself in angry outbursts and, too often, a failure to treat people with the respect that they deserved,” he said. “Clearly, that was wrong. It is not how I was raised, it’s not who I am, and for that situation, I am profoundly sorry,” he said.