Michael Cohen sued former President Donald Trump and the federal government Thursday, charging they conspired to throw him back in prison for publishing a book.
Cohen’s case, filed in Manhattan Federal Court, centers on a bizarre series of events in the summer of 2020 following his release from Otisville prison into home confinement to complete a three-year sentence for lying to Congress, campaign finance violations, and other financial crimes. Cohen was sent home due to the coronavirus pandemic, only to be hauled back to prison.
The about-face by the Justice Department, Cohen argues in the suit, was retaliation for his planned memoir about working as Trump’s personal attorney.
“I will never stop until all of these animals who seek to destroy our democracy are held accountable for their unconstitutional and immoral acts!” Cohen tweeted.
He seeks unspecified damages from the feds and Trump. Cohen says the suit was just one example of Trump using the levers of government to punish enemies, noting other efforts by the feds to stop books by Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, and former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton.
Cohen, 55, was sprung from jail in May 2020 as coronavirus ravaged Otisville prison in Orange County, where he was being held. He was released into home confinement thanks to a Bureau of Prisons furlough program that resulted in many white-collar criminals, elderly and immunocompromised inmates at heightened risk of COVID leaving prison early.
Cohen soon began tweeting that he was working on a book, “Disloyal: A Memoir.” “#Willspeaksoon,” he promised.
On July 9, Cohen went to a lower Manhattan courthouse for check-in with authorities supervising his home confinement. A probation officer presented Cohen with an unusual document requiring he not speak to or through the media. The document, Cohen says, also blocked him from publishing his book while on home confinement.
“The purpose is to avoid glamorizing or bringing publicity to your status as a sentenced inmate serving a custodial term in the community,” the document read.
Cohen refused to sign the paperwork and he was hauled back to prison. The move, Cohen says, was retaliatory and a violation of his First Amendment rights. He believes then-Attorney General Bill Barr and Trump himself orchestrated the ordeal.
On July 23, Judge Alvin Hellerstein ordered Cohen be returned to home confinement.
“I’ve never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people and looking at terms of supervised release,” Hellerstein said. “Why would the Bureau of Prisons ask for something like this … unless there was a retaliatory purpose?
“The purpose of transferring Mr. Cohen from home confinement to jail is retaliatory, and it’s retaliatory because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish a book,” the judge said.
Cohen served as Trump’s bulldog lawyer for decades until 2018 when he began cooperating with authorities. That decision came after an FBI probe into hush-money payments Cohen made during the 2016 presidential campaign to silence women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.
Cohen’s book included damning allegations that Trump made anti-Semitic remarks against prominent Jewish people, as well as racist comments about former President Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and others.