Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves Michael Cohen.
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, was released from federal prison to home confinement Thursday as part of the Justice Department’s push to stem the spread of coronavirus among the inmates it houses, his lawyer said.
Cohen’s lawyer, Jeffrey Levine, said he had spoken with Cohen around 9 a.m. He said he would likely issue a statement later in the day, after speaking further with Cohen.
The move, though expected, is likely to rile Trump, who has derided his former attorney as a “rat.” Cohen, 53, once affectionately considered himself Trump’s “fixer,” but as he became ensnared in multiple federal investigations, Cohen turned on his former client cooperating with federal investigators scrutinizing the president, and airing out in federal court and before Congress what he saw as Trump’s misconduct.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 in two separate criminal cases. In the first, he admitted to campaign finance violations stemming from payments made before the 2016 election to women who alleged having affairs with Trump years earlier. The president has denied their claims. In the second, Cohen admitted to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project Trump and his company pursued while Trump was trying to secure the Republican nomination to become president.
Cohen blamed the president for his wrongdoing, saying he arranged the payments at Trump’s direction to keep the women quiet, and that he lied to lawmakers about the real estate project to protect his boss. Trump has disputed his account.
U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III sentenced Cohen to three years in prison, and he reported to the institution in Otisville, N.Y. on May 6, 2019. In March, Pauley rejected Cohen’s bid to be released early because of the pandemic.
But the coronavirus-relief legislation passed by Congress gave Attorney General William P. Barr authority to declare an emergency and allow prison officials to release inmates to home confinement without judicial approval. That gave Cohen another chance.
Cohen’s attorney and a Justice Department official said last month that Cohen had been cleared to go, and he was placed in a mandatory, pre release quarantine, meant to ensure he did not have coronavirus before he was let out.
But on May 1, the day he was expecting to return home, officials changed course. Cohen, they decided, would have to meet new Bureau of Prisons’ criteria that inmates prioritized for release must first have served 50 percent of their sentence, or have served 25 percent and have 18 months or less remaining. Cohen remained isolated and in quarantine, expecting to cross the latter threshold later in the month. A Justice Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Cohen would now be released “on furlough” pending his formal processing for home confinement.
Legal advisers complained publicly about the reversal, fueling some speculation that Cohen was being singled out for harsh treatment because of his soured relationship with Trump.