01:10 - Source: CNN
Rep. Gaetz claims tweet to Cohen is 'witness testing'
Miami CNN  — 

A Florida Bar investigation into whether a Republican congressman improperly intimidated President Donald Trump’s former attorney ahead of congressional testimony will proceed.

The investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz’s conduct has advanced to a grievance committee for further investigation and action, Francine Andia Walker, a spokeswoman for the bar, told CNN Wednesday.

In February, just hours ahead of Michael 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…”

The comments sparked outrage among Democrats and ethics experts. Gaetz, who didn’t offer any proof for his claims, later deleted his tweet and issued an apology, saying he didn’t intend to threaten Cohen.

The new phase of the process could take three to six months, according to bar guidelines, and a number of different outcomes are possible, ranging from a finding of “no probable cause” and “no discipline,” to having to go before the Florida Supreme Court.

When the bar first looked into the complaint in February, Jillian Lane Wyant, a spokeswoman for Gaetz, called it “frivolous.” On Wednesday, Wyant told CNN that the Florida Republican would carry on in his duties as the investigation proceeds.

“Congressman Gaetz remains confident that the Florida Bar will not impair his vigorous and successful representation of his district,” she said.

Gaetz previously worked as an attorney in Florida before he entered politics.

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 before 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.”

CNN’s David Shortell contributed to this report.