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Accused of witness tampering, Trump congressional ally scrambles

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) targeted Michael Cohen the day before his congressional testimony. Now the Florida Republican can't backpedal fast enough.
Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, speaks on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives on April 4, 2013, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla.

The day before Michael Cohen's congressional testimony, one of Donald Trump's most flamboyantly partisan allies sent the former "fixer" an unusual message via Twitter.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) wrote, "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."

Almost immediately, legal experts weighed in, suggesting the missive looked an awful lot like the Republican congressman was trying to influence Cohen's testimony -- which would be witness tampering, which is a felony.

In the face of difficult questions, Gaetz initially refused to back down. As Vanity Fair reports, the Florida Republican is now in full retreat.

"Mr. Cohen, this is Congressman Matt Gaetz," he wrote in a text to Cohen. "I am writing to personally tell you I'm sorry for the tweet that I sent which many believe was threatening to you. It was never ever ever my intent to threaten you in any way.""While you don't know me," he continued, "that is not who I am and how I operate. I do not wish any harm to you or your family. I was upset at what was transpiring and chose my words poorly. I will work to be better, as I know you said today you will as well. Have a good evening. – Matt."

For those keeping score, this was not the GOP lawmaker's only apology. Gaetz also published a tweet last week expressing his regrets.

It's possible, of course, that Gaetz, after having a little time to reflect on his antics, realized he went too far, and he's now sincerely apologizing. It's also possible that the congressman is scrambling because he fears the consequences of his actions.

The Florida Bar Association is now investigating Gaetz, and congressional Democrats have raised the specter of an ethics investigation.

I'm not saying Gaetz's apologies are insincere, but I'd also be interested to know whether they were the result of recommendations from counsel.