Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen ordered back to jail after dispute over gag order

Our Foreign Staff
·4-min read
Michael Cohen, former attorney to President Donald Trump, leaves his apartment building before beginning his prison term in New York - Kevin Hagen/AP
Michael Cohen, former attorney to President Donald Trump, leaves his apartment building before beginning his prison term in New York - Kevin Hagen/AP

Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, was taken to a federal jail in the US on Thursday after refusing to agree to a gag order as a condition of serving his criminal sentence under home confinement, Mr Cohen's lawyer said.

Mr Cohen, 53, was taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, according to his lawyer, Jeffrey Levine. Cohen had been released from a federal prison in upstate New York in May due to concerns over possible exposure to the novel coronavirus. He had completed about a year of a three-year sentence for his role in hush money payments to two women, as well as for financial crimes and lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Mr Cohen had originally been eligible for release in November 2021.

On Thursday, he was ordered to a federal courthouse in Manhattan to convert his furlough to home confinement, Mr Levine said outside of the courthouse. He said they were presented with an agreement that barred Mr Cohen from having any contact with news media organizations, TV, film or book publishing outlets, or from posting on social media.

"I've never seen any language like this in my life," Mr Levine said. After objecting, Mr Levine said the US Marshals Service came with "shackles" and ordered Mr Cohen remanded to the jail in Brooklyn because he failed to agree to the terms.

The federal Bureau of Prisons said Mr Cohen refused the conditions of his home confinement and as a result was returned to a detention facility. Mr Levine said he was working to resolve the dispute over the terms of home confinement.

On July 2, Mr Cohen tweeted that he was close to completing a book with an anticipated publication date of September. At the time of Mr Cohen's release in May, he wrote on Twitter that "there is so much I want to say and intend to say. But now is not the right time. Soon."

Mr Cohen once said he would "take a bullet" for Mr Trump but later turned on his former boss and cooperated with Democratic-led congressional inquiries. Mr Trump has called Mr Cohen a "rat." Mr Cohen has called Mr Trump a "racist," a "con man" and "a cheat."

Mr Trump, who is facing a challenging re-election bid in November, had to deal recently with two unflattering books about his administration and family, one by former national security adviser John Bolton and another by his niece Mary Trump.

Thursday's events come a week after Mr Cohen was spotted at a sidewalk table at the French restaurant Le Bilboquet near his Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan, according to the New York Post newspaper.

Mr Levine had told the Post that the dinner did not violate the terms of Mr Cohen's release from prison. Lanny Davis, a former attorney for Mr Cohen, said on Thursday that Mr Cohen told him the authorities never said he had violated any rules by going to the restaurant.

Davis also said that he spoke with Mr Levine after what was expected to be a probation visit on Thursday. He said Mr Levine told him that, when Mr Cohen objected to giving up his book and other First Amendment rights, the authorities said they would try to work it out.

But instead, 90 minutes later, the US marshals showed up with shackles and an order to arrest Mr Cohen. At that point, Mr Cohen said he was willing to sign whatever they wanted, Davis was told, but as they put the shackles on Mr Cohen, one marshal said, "It's out of our hands."

Mr Cohen was sentenced for his role in hush money payments to two women, pornographic film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougall, who said they had sexual relationships with Mr Trump. The president has denied having relationships with either woman.