A Florida Bar investigative panel says Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz’s controversial tweet aimed at former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was “unprofessional, reckless, insensitive and demonstrated poor judgment.”
But The Florida Bar, which oversees lawyers in Florida, found “no probable cause” to proceed in an investigation of the tweet and dismissed a complaint over the incident, according to a letter released Friday.
Gaetz, a conservative lawmaker from the Florida Panhandle who is a close ally of President Trump, had announced the decision earlier in the week.
But the letter from the Bar’s grievance committee sharply criticizes the outspoken congressman’s behavoir.
“The grievance committee wants to make it clear, however, that this finding does not indicate that the committee condones your conduct in this matter. While your conduct in this instance did not warrant formal discipline, the grievance committee believes it was not consistent with the high standards of our profession, and in light of the public nature of your comments, your actions do not reflect favorably on you as a member of The Florida Bar,” the letter says.
The Bar’s letter notes that the code of conduct for lawyers governs their behavior not only in legal proceedings but also in “personal and business affairs outside the practice of law.” And as a lawyer, Gaetz took an oath to uphold “standards of civility,” the letter says.
A complaint was filed against Gaetz after he issued an antagonizing tweet last February prior to Cohen’s testimony before a congressional committee.
“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…” Gaetz tweeted.
The tweet drew charges of witness tampering and Gaetz issued an apology to Cohen, who is now serving a federal prison sentence, and to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He also deleted the tweet. The Florida Bar says those actions were taken into account in reaching its decision.
Nonetheless, “the grievance committee believes your original tweet was unprofessional, reckless, insensitive, and demonstrated poor judgment,” the letter says. “The grievance committee hopes this letter will make you more aware of your continuous obligation to uphold the professional standards of a lawyer in The Florida Bar and, in the future, you will adjust your conduct accordingly.”