This story has been updated.
The Republican Party is turning into a mob. As former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testifies behind closed doors to Congress — his public testimony is scheduled for Wednesday – President Trump’s allies are pulling out the long knives for the “rat.”
Cohen isn’t in any physical danger. Like the Don himself, the familia’s preferred weapon is the tweet. The GOP fired the first shots:
For years, Michael Cohen praised @realDonaldTrump’s honesty and integrity.
It was only after Cohen was caught for tax evasion and other personal financial misdeeds, he began lying about President Trump in an effort to save face. pic.twitter.com/AQnxxk7yBF
— GOP (@GOP) February 26, 2019
The GOP even has its own over-eager Tommy DeVito character: Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who tweeted Tuesday afternoon:
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…
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) February 26, 2019
Gaetz doesn’t have the millions-strong following of the official GOP account, but what he lacks in reach he makes up in aggression. Whereas the GOP tagged President Trump to reach his supporters, Gaetz tagged Cohen to make sure he saw the tweet (in between rounds of testimony).
Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, who originally introduced Cohen and Trump, loaned $20 million to a Chicago taxi cab mogul whose name was included in the FBI’s warrant to search Cohen’s office and home last year. Cohen’s wife, Laura Shusterman, may also be implicated in federal crimes, though she hasn’t been charged.
Gaetz’s Twitter biography describes him as “proudly serving the First District in Congress.” The bio also includes a quote by Trump about Gaetz: “He’s a machine … handsome and going places.”
The photos that grace the congressman’s Twitter accounts – both personal and official – make plain whom he’s really serving. They both depict him with Trump in front of Marine One.
Just a few days ago, over at Gaetz’s official account, he posted a video about his support a victim of cyber-bullying.
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) February 22, 2019
“It’s really sad,” bemoaned the congressman, “that [social media] has become a new tool that people use to be mean to each other… If someone is writing something ugly about you on social media, you need to go out there and live your life and be successful and prosperous and kind to others.”
It gets better. “If someone else hates themselves so much that they would go and use the internet as a way to try and bring discomfort on someone else’s life, that says a lot more about them.”
Quite so, Mr. Gaetz. Quite so.
To defend his tweet, Gaetz said, “It is challenging the veracity and character of a witness. We do it everyday [sic]. We typically do it during people’s testimony… This is what it looks like to compete in the marketplace of ideas.”
Gaetz doesn’t sit on either of the House committees before whom Cohen is testifying.
The second-term congressman insisted he wasn’t threatening Cohen:
Rep Gaetz just spoke to press asked if his Cohen tweet is a threat – “Absolutely not. We’re witness testing not witness tampering. And when witnesses come before Congress their truthfulness and voracity ought to be tested and we have the opportunity.” via @ABC @AllisonMPecorin
— John Santucci (@Santucci) February 26, 2019
Later Tuesday, though, while The Bulwark was publishing this post, Gaetz doubled down:
I guess tomorrow we'll find out if there's anyone Cohen hasn't lied to!
I think it's entirely appropriate for any member of this body to challenge the truthfulness, veracity, and character for people who have a history and future full of lies.
That's the story of Michael Cohen. pic.twitter.com/SCEODKNteR
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) February 27, 2019
Cohen, who is facing a three-year sentence for lying to Congress, learned the hard way that being Trump’s attack dog is dangerous business. Will Gaetz make the connection?