Attorneys for Michael Cohen claim that he was sent back to prison because of his plans to publish an “unflattering” book about his former boss Donald Trump.
In a court filing late on Monday, Cohen also provided some details of what is in the book, titled, Disloyal: The True Story of Michael Cohen, Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump.
Cohen said that the tome “will provide graphic and unflattering details about the President’s behavior behind closed doors. For example, the manuscript describes the president’s pointedly anti-Semitic remarks and virulently racist remarks against such Black leaders as President Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela, neither of whom he viewed as real leaders or as worthy of respect by virtue of their race. The book will rely upon and publish numerous personal anecdotes, many of which will be supported by my collection of documentary evidence.”
The book is at the center of claims that he was abruptly sent back to prison on July 9, after he was furloughed to his home in May as part of an early release program over concerns of inmates contracting the coronavirus.
Cohen was serving a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance violations, the latter related to payments made to women who claimed to have had sexual relationships with Trump. The president has denied those claims.
Late on Monday, a group of attorneys, including those from the ACLU, filed suit in federal court in New York, seeking a temporary restraining order to return Cohen to home confinement. They contend that at a meeting with Bureau of Prisons officials to discuss the terms of his home confinement and electronic monitoring, Cohen was instead sent back to prison when he and his attorney raised questions about one of the conditions in an agreement he was to sign: That he not talk to the media.
“Mr. Cohen expressed that this condition would bar him from making any progress on his book draft, making a pre-election publication date unlikely,” the lawsuit stated. “But, because he was fearful for his life should he be remanded to prison, he did not refuse. Instead, he and his lawyer sought both to clarify the meaning of the condition, and to tailor it more narrowly to the BOP’s stated reason for including it; namely, to avoid glamorizing or bringing attention to his upcoming home confinement status.”
According to Cohen, after waiting for clarification of the condition, U.S. marshals arrived and took him back into custody.
“This is not a motion about politics or personalities—this is a request to prevent a plain violation of the Constitution,” the lawsuit stated. “The First Amendment forbids Respondents from imprisoning Mr. Cohen as punishment for drafting a book that is critical of the President, and for preparing to publish it shortly before the upcoming election.”
Cohen contends that he has preconditions, including hypertension, that make him especially vulnerable to the severe effects of COVID-19.
The lawsuit was filed against Attorney General William Barr, Bureau of Prisons director Michael Carvajal, and James Petrucci, warden of the federal prison in Otisville, NY, where Cohen is in solitary confinement.
Cohen had said on social media that the book would be published in late September. The lawsuit also refers to past attempts to stop the publication of John Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened and Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.
In his court declaration, Cohen said that he does not believe he ever signed a non-disclosure agreement, even though his attorney received a warning letter in April from Charles Harder, attorney for the Trump Organization.
A Justice Department official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In Cohen’s lawsuit, his attorneys wrote that after he was sent back to prison, Bureau of Prisons officials “inaccurately stated” that the reason was “because he ‘declined to agree to the terms of his home confinement,’ including ‘obtaining pre-approval for media interviews.'”
“In fact, Mr. Cohen never refused to agree to the terms … and the terms [federal officials] presented to him included a blanket prohibition on engaging with the media…not just a pre-approval requirement.”
“Putting that aside, [federal officials’] public statements demonstrate that their retaliatory actions against Mr. Cohen were motivated by their disapproval of Mr. Cohen’s intent to exercise his First Amendment rights, including Mr. Cohen’s right to speak to the media.”
Cohen’s legal team in the case includes Danya Perry, Samidh Guha George M. Barchini of Perry Guha LLP and Vera Eidelman, Arianna Demas and Brian Hauss of the ACLU.
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