Former White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter is calling for the immediate arrest of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), accusing him of witness tampering hours after the lawmaker issued a thinly veiled threat against Michael Cohen.
Cohen, the former longtime personal attorney to President Donald Trump, is scheduled to testify before Congress on Wednesday. He reportedly plans to directly accuse Trump of criminal conduct prior to the 2016 presidential election.
Gaetz fired off a tweet on the eve of that testimony that many slammed as an attempt to intimidate a witness:
Gaetz later deleted the tweet, saying he did not intend to threaten the witness.
“I should have chosen words that better showed my intent,” Gaetz wrote. “I’m sorry.”
But Painter wasn’t impressed by the apology:
Before Gaetz deleted the tweet, Painter also called for the congressman’s arrest.
He wasn’t just offering a play on a longtime Trump rallying cry. In a subsequent tweet, Painter made it clear that Gaetz should be locked up immediately:
Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics under President Barack Obama and for six months under Trump, also accused Gaetz of witness intimidation and cited the relevant statutes
Shaub also warned Gaetz that his apparent defense that he was just “witness testing” as a member of Congress may not hold up:
Gaetz also came under attack earlier this month when he said in a U.S. House hearing on firearm background checks that immigrant violence was worse than the toll of gun violence in the U.S. When called out for lying by a parent of one of the students killed in Parkland, Florida, Gaetz chastised the father for speaking out of turn and asked to have him ejected.
This story has been updated to include Gaetz’s apology and an additional tweet from Painter.