Michael Cohen asks Supreme Court to step into fight over alleged retaliation by Trump

Michael Cohen, the one-time fixer for Donald Trump, is asking the Supreme Court to revive his lawsuit against the former president for allegedly retaliating against him for promoting his tell-all book critical of Trump, according to Cohen’s attorney.

Cohen sued Trump, former Attorney General Bill Barr and other federal officials in 2021 for alleged retaliation in response to public comments he made about the book. After declining to sign an agreement barring him from speaking with the media, Cohen was taken back into custody and placed in solitary confinement for more than two weeks, court records show.

A US District Court dismissed Cohen’s lawsuit for damages, and the New York-based 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision in January.

“When Cohen, who was writing a book critical of Trump, did not agree immediately to waive his right to free speech, he was summarily sent back to prison and thrown into solitary confinement,” Cohen told the Supreme Court in an appeal his lawyer said he filed Wednesday. “As it stands, this case represents the principle that presidents and their subordinates can lock away critics of the executive without consequence.”

For the claim to survive, Cohen will have to clear a tall hurdle the Supreme Court has erected that makes it difficult for Americans to sue federal law enforcement officials. A 1971 Supreme Court decision, Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, established that people could sue federal agents if their rights were violated. But the court has been unwilling to expand that right beyond a limited number of circumstances.

Two years ago, the high court denied a “Bivens” claim against a Border Patrol agent in Washington state and further limited the conditions under which such lawsuits can be filed. That litigation followed an encounter in which the owner of an inn near the US-Canada border claimed the agent used excessive force and then retaliated against him for reporting the incident.

Cohen, speaking with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins Wednesday, described himself as, in essence, a “political prisoner” who was held because he “refused to waive a constitutional right.”

“I believe that it’s incumbent upon the Supreme Court of the United States to hear this case,” Cohen said on “The Source.”

He said people “have to be very, very careful, and what they have to be very cognizant of is what happens now post the Supreme Court’s decision on presidential immunity.” Opponents of the conservative court’s presidential immunity ruling earlier this month claim some illegal acts committed by a president — like targeting political opponents — may now be shielded from criminal prosecution.

The Supreme Court will likely decide in the fall whether or not to hear arguments in Cohen’s appeal.

A Trump campaign spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cohen pleaded guilty to nine counts, including for campaign finance violations tied to payments he made or orchestrated to women during the 2016 campaign, and was serving a three-year prison sentence. He was released from prison on furlough in 2020 during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

When Cohen met with probation officials later that year, they presented Cohen with an agreement that required him to avoid engaging with the media and using social media. After Cohen sought to change the terms of that agreement, he was transported back to prison and placed in solitary confinement for 16 days, according to court records.

At the appeals court, Trump’s attorneys described Cohen’s claims as “meritless” and said he failed to establish any connection between the former president and the agreement.

A federal court ordered Cohen’s release days later.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Jack Forrest contributed to this report.

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