Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican representing Florida’s first congressional district, made headlines after tweeting a post aimed at former Trump attorney Michael Cohen that instantly raised questions about possible witness intimidation.
Rep. Gaetz posted the tweet the day before Cohen was scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee. It read, “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…”
Rep. Gaetz has quickly denied that his statement could be viewed as a threat. He told reporters at the Capitol, “We’re witness testing, not witness tampering. And when witnesses come before Congress, their truthfulness and veracity are in question and we have the opportunity to test them.” When asked to clarify what his tweet meant, he responded, “I think my tweet speaks for itself. You should go read it.”
Cohen is expected to provide evidence of alleged criminal misconduct by President Trump during his testimony before the House committee on February 27. Critics have argued whether Cohen’s statement can be trusted because he has admitted to lying to Congress before.
This isn’t Rep. Gaetz’s first run-in with controversy. A picture that appears in a google search of his name is an old mugshot, which he has addressed multiple times in his political career.
Here’s what you need to know.
Matt Gaetz Was Arrested in 2008 On Suspicion of DUI Before He Was Elected to the Florida House
Rep. Gaetz has prior experience making headlines for less-than-positive reasons. He has always been very open about his own brush with the law before he became a state congressman. (He was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2010 and to the U.S. Congress in 2016).
Gaetz was arrested on suspicion of DUI on October 30, 2008, when he was 26 years old. He was driving home from a nightclub and was pulled over for driving 48 in a 35 mile-per-hour zone, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The SUV belonged to his father, State Senator Don Gaetz.
The deputy, identified as Chris Anglin of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department, wrote in the arrest report that Gaetz had been unsteady on his feet and that his eyes were bloodshot. Gaetz reportedly admitted to having had two beers and refused to perform a field sobriety test or take a breath test.
Gaetz Was Never Convicted & He Has Promoted Efforts to Have Mugshots Removed From Private Websites
The case against Gaetz was officially dropped in December of 2008. His attorney argued that there had been no evidence Gaetz had been impaired while behind the wheel. Deputy Anglin ended up quitting his job shortly after arresting Gaetz, after he was accused of grabbing a suspect’s neck during another arrest in early November.
Gaetz was never convicted for DUI. But his mugshot was published online. After becoming a Florida congressman, Gaetz supported efforts to have mugshots of unconvicted people removed from private websites. Nothing was passed while he was in state office. But in 2018, a Florida law went into effect that requires websites to take down mugshots if requested without charging a fee.
Despite the lack of a conviction, Gaetz’s opponents used the DUI arrest against him in the 2018 midterm election. An anti-Republican political action committee paid for a billboard in Pensacola that included Gaetz’s mugshot and the words, “Rep. Matt Gaetz, how many DUIs have you had? The voters deserve to know.”