“The Art of the Threat”—GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz—March 10, 2019
“The Art of the Deal?” Remember that 1987 book? This best-selling book was the first one credited to Donald Trump and helped make him a “household name.” In 2016, journalist Tony Schwartz stated that Donald had played no role in writing it. Schwartz then expressed regrets for his involvement in this book (Mayer, J. “New Yorker,”7/25/16). This book was one of the biggest cons foisted on the American public by our present “Conman-in-Chief.” Frankly, in Trump World, it’s really the “Art of the Threat.”
Throughout his career, Trump has had far too many bullying enablers. One of the biggest in that class was former Trump counsel, aka “fixer” Michael Cohen. He had previously bragged of being willing to “take a bullet” for Donald. Cohen, however, after pleading guilty to several charges, is now shooting multiple bullets at his former boss. In an introductory statement which he read before the House Oversight and Reform Congressional Committee, Cohen called Demagogue Donald a “racist,” a “con man,” and a “cheat (nytimes.com., Shear, M., 2/27/19, vox.com, Kirby, J., 2/27/19).” In his 2/27/2019 public testimony before that committee, Cohen had a significant exchange with San Mateo Cong. Jackie Speier (D-CA). Cong. Speier asked Cohen, “How many times did Mr. Trump ask you to threaten an individual or entity on his behalf? Cohen replied, “Quite a few times.” A wild back-and forth dialogue followed.
Speier: “100 times?”
Cohen:”Probably, over the 10 years,” the ten years Cohen had served as Trump’s counsel from 2007-2017 (See nytimes.com, Cohen transcript, 2/27/19, vox.com, Kirby, J., 2/27/19).
Among examples of some of those threatening acts, Cohen offered to the House Oversight Committee copies of letters he wrote “at Trump’s direction.” These letters threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores. Cohen gave the committee a 2015 letter threatening legal action against Fordham University if that institution released Donald’s academic records without his consent. A Fordham University spokesperson confirmed that university had received the letter and a follow-up phone call. (IMHO, these records would prove Donald’s an “unstable non-genius”). Cohen mentioned nasty arguments he had with reporters to clean up problems for Trump. In 2015, in a lengthy, expletive-filled email, Cohen threatened a reporter who was working on a story about Trump’s divorce settlement with his first wife Ivana. Cohen stated, “So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me (vox.com, Kirby, J., 2/27/19, nytimes.com, 2/27/19, Baker, P., & Fandos, N.)?”
Now that Cohen has turned on his former boss, Trump himself has directly used the “Art of the Threat” against him. Cohen had been scheduled to testify before Congress earlier than he did but had cancelled several of those appearances. Why? Because, for over a month and a half, Trump himself and his new legal “pit bull,” Rudy Giuliani, had publicly threatened Cohen’s family. Cohen accused Donald of injecting into the media ominous innuendos about how Cohen’s father-in-law and even Cohen’s own wife could be tied to criminal activity. Trump claimed that Cohen was giving purportedly false information about him to get a lighter sentence, because he didn’t want to have to give accurate information about “something involving his father-in-law.” Giuliani asserted on CNN that Cohen’s father-in-law “may have something to do with organized crime (vox.com, Prokop, 1/24/19).”
There are, additionally, many GOP Congressmen who will willingly charge into battle to try to save their “Supreme Leader-in-Chief.” Exhibit A— FL GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz (GATES). Just before 2/27/2019, when Cohen publicly testified before Congress, Rep. Gaetz tweeted the following:
“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… (@mattgaetz, 4:12 PM-26 Feb 2019).” This tweet reeking “big time” with the stench of witness intimidation, caused a “y uu ge” public outcry. Gaetz, however, initially defended the tweet “as testing the truthfulness of a witness, which is done every day and what it looks like to compete in the marketplace of ideas (dailybeast.com).” Huh? No reasonable person bought this nonsense. The State Bar of FL where Gaetz is licensed as an attorney has opened an investigation into whether he violated the rules of professional conduct with this tweet (dailybeast.com, Markay, L. & Stein, S., 2/27/18). He could be reprimanded or possibly disbarred for tampering with a witness (See shareblue.com, Willis, 2/27/19). Gaetz soon deleted his tweet and apologized for attacking Cohen in “the wrong manner by invoking his family.” Gaetz was even slammed by freshman FL GOP Sen. Rick Scott, who called his conduct “embarrassing and disgusting.” Scott attacked Gaetz for “trying to ‘intimidate’ a person and their family.” He called it “wrong.” Gaetz, however, didn’t really retract his accusations about Cohen. He just argued that he “chose his words poorly.” Gaetz even stood within eyesight of Cohen while he testified and stared him down (See dailykos.com, Karamazov, A., 3/04/19). And Gaetz is not even a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee (oversight.house.gov/members). Meet Cong. Gaetz.
Second-term GOP Congressman Matthew Louis Gaetz II, 36, (voterrecords.com) currently represents FL’s 1st Congressional District (CD), the FL Panhandle. The 1st constitutes the western part of FL and goes west to the AL border. This CD takes in the city of Pensacola and goes east through Fort Walton Beach and Destin to Santa Rosa Beach. Local residents affectionately call the 1st’s beaches the “Redneck Riviera.” In the 20th Century, the Pensacola Naval Air Station (NAS) was turned into the nation’s first naval-aviation training base, giving birth to carrier aviation. Besides the Pensacola base, the 1st includes NAS Whiting Field. The Eglin Air Force Base and the Air Force’s Hurlburt Field are also in the 1st CD. Defense is the major economic pillar, but visitors to the powder white sands of this Emerald Coast, including Fort Walton Beach and Destin in Okaloosa County, bring in many tourists and support retirement centers (CQ & Barone 14 Political Almanacs).
The Panhandle 1st is geographically part of FL. However, it is more closely tied to the Deep South with its political, cultural, and Bible Belt attitudes. The 1st has been often labeled “lower Alabama.” It lies closer to Houston, TX than Miami. Unlike the rest of the state, it is in the Central time zone(Barone 14). The 1st CD has not supported a Democrat presidential nominee since JFK in 1960. However, the area of the 1st kept electing conservative congressional Dems until 1994. Since then, it has only elected GOP Congressmen. McCain and Romney easily won here in 2008 and 2012, and Trump clobbered Hillary by 40 percentage points, helping to tip FL “Red.” The most recent Cook Partisan Voter Index (PVI) gives the 1st a “super-Red” R+22 score (Election Results Statewide Races, Cook Political Report, 4/07/17).
Hollywood, FL native Matt Gaetz was raised in the 1st’s Fort Walton Beach area. He received his 2003 undergraduate degree from Florida State University and a 2007 law degree from the College of William and Mary (gaetz.housse.gov/issues/biography, Menzel, M., sunshinestatenews.com, 11/09/12, martindale.com/Matthew Gaetz). Gaetz is the son of FL politician Don Gaetz, who represented parts of Northwest FL in the FL State Senate (2006-2016) and served as Senate President from 2012-2014. Gaetz’s grandfather, Jerry Gaetz, was the mayor of Rugby, ND. He was a candidate for ND LT. Governor at the 1964 ND GOP state convention, where he suddenly died of a heart attack (tampabay.com, Colavecchio-Van Sickler, S., 3/30/08).
In 2010, Matt Gaetz won a special election to the FL House of Representatives, clobbering his Dem. opponent with a 66% margin. He was re-elected unopposed in 2012 and 2014. In the FL House, Gaetz co-sponsored legislation to accelerate the execution of many FL death row inmates. Following the trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin, Gaetz, as Chair of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, reviewed FL’s controversial “stand-your-ground law” involved in that case. He stated he would not support changing “one damn comma” of that law (tampabay.com, Mitchell, T., 8/22/13). In 2008, Gaetz was arrested for DUI but refused to take a breathalyzer test. He did not have his license suspended for a year, as FL law dictates. Charges against him were dismissed, even though police reported that he had “swayed, staggered, and fumbled for his license.” Between 1999-2014, Gaetz received 16 FL speeding tickets (tampabay.com, Van Sickler, M., Krauth, D. & Heimeriks, N. 7/25/14, tcpalm.com). In 2016, Gaetz ran for the 1st CD seat from which the GOP incumbent was retiring. After winning the GOP primary, he defeated his Dem. opponent, taking 69% of the vote. In that race, right-wing Koch Industries gave Gaetz $5,000 (opensecrets.org, 2016). In 2018, Gaetz handily won re-election with a 34% margin. (nytimes.com/elections, 116th Cong. Early Guide).
In the current 116th Congress, Gaetz sits on the powerhouse House Armed Services and Judiciary Committees (govtrack.us). In the 116th Congress, he has voted with Demagogue Donald 92.3% of the time (projects.fvethirtyeight.com). We should not at all be surprised by Gaetz’s defense of Trump and his harassment of Trump’s opponents, now, including Michael Cohen. In 4/2018, “Politico” described Gaetz as “one of the most enthusiastic defenders of President Trump on cable news” and a “proud Trump protégé.” The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake referred to Gaetz as one of Congress’s “most controversial members,” and one who has “unabashedly aligned himself with Trump on basically all things (politico.com, Blake, 2/27/19, washingtonpost.com).”
In 11/2017, Cong. Gaetz introduced a measure calling for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to recuse himself for what were said to be “conflicts of interest (businessinsider.com, Perticone, J., 11/03/17).” Gaetz voted for the top 1% tax cut and falsely stated that Medicaid expansion fueled the opioid crisis (Sarlin, B., wavy.com, 12/19/17, politifact.com). In 2017, Gaetz, proposed legislation to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA (huffingtonpost.com, Kaufman, A., 1/31/17). Gaetz has stated that “illegal immigrants are sucking us dry,” and defended Donald trashing Haiti. He also claimed, in 10/2018, that George Soros paid for a caravan of Central American migrants, a false anti-Semitic meme (See nytimes.com, 10/20/2018, huffingtonpost.com, 1/16/18, orlandoweekly.com, 3/21/16). In 1/2018, Cong. Gaetz gave alt-right notorious Holocaust denier Charles C. Johnson a ticket to attend Trump’s State of the Union address. Gaetz stated that Johnson was not a Holocaust denier and white supremacist, even though he had raised money for the neo-Nazi website “The Daily Stormer.” Johnson took Gaetz’s invitation, because “he’s into issues I care about (Delk, thehill.com, Markay, thedailybeast.com, 1/31/18).”
In this “dripping Red” Fl 1st , Gates can probably keep getting re-elected as long as he wants, even if he gets disbarred. The key is to keep this extremist isolated in the House minority. As long as Democrats do not get complacent and vote in droves in every election, bullying Gaetz will remain irrelevant.