Update: On Thursday, a federal judge ordered the release of Michael Cohen from prison, citing "retaliation" from officers who returned him to custody. Cohen was forced back to prison after breaking the terms of his medical furlough, but according to the New York Times, a judge believes that the officers who took him back did so to upend his plans to publish a tell-all book about Donald Trump ahead of the election. Cohen will once again be released into home confinement. The former lawyer's book will reportedly detail Trump's racist behavior "behind closed doors."
This story was originally published on July 10, 2020.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, received a rare get-out-of-jail card and was granted permission to finish out the rest of his sentence at home citing health concerns. Unfortunately for Cohen, instead of passing go, he’ll be heading back several spaces to solitary confinement.
After being furloughed in May, Cohen was taken back into custody on Thursday for failing to sign the Bureau of Prisons' guidelines for his release. But what is perhaps most jarring about this are the guidelines that Cohen was unable or unwilling to follow.
According to CBS News, which cited a copy of the conditional terms for Cohen's release, he was expected to agree to “no engagement of any kind with the media, including print, tv, film, books, or any other form of media/news." The guidelines also stated that Cohen was not allowed to post on social media, and asked that friends and family he communicated with use discretion about what they post about him on social media as well.
“The purpose is to avoid glamorizing or bringing publicity to your status as a sentenced inmate serving a custodial term in the community,” the rules read. However, Cohen didn’t agree with these terms, and he and his attorney, Jeffrey Levine, were in the process of requesting a change to the guidelines.
According to Levine, Cohen found the barriers — which, again, were to not talk to the media and not use Twitter — too ridiculous and showed no intent to follow them. Levine explained that signing the agreement would mean accepting that he can’t engage with the media through any medium, blocking his forthcoming book about President Trump from release.
"I've never seen any language like this in my life that would strip a person of their First Amendment rights to communicate with the media," Levine said. On July 2, Cohen tweeted about his book, violating the terms of his furlough. On Thursday, U.S. Marshals were ordered to take him back to prison outside of the courthouse where Cohen and his lawyer were trying to negotiate the terms. After a short hour and a half, Cohen pleaded, "I'll sign the whole document if that means I don't have to go back to jail.” Still, he’d already squandered his shot.
This all comes after a long investigation process that ended in Cohen's 2018 sentencing to prison. In a plea deal, he was sentenced to three years for financial and campaign finance crimes on top of lying to Congress about his involvement in plans to erect a "Trump Tower" in Moscow while the 2016 campaign was happening. However, his violations also included the fact that Cohen set up payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign to keep quiet about their alleged affairs with Donald Trump.
Cohen was already served a cease and desist letter from the Trump Organization while working on his book, explaining that he's violating a confidentiality agreement and attorney-client privilege. Still, he's continued to move forward with the book. This latest stint and his trip back to prison just might show that perhaps Cohen has a pattern of not honoring agreements.