President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, is about to go to jail — again. The former fixer is returning to prison just two months after his release to home confinement. Here’s what you need to know.
UPDATE, 7/9/20, 4:42pm ET: Michael Cohen was taken into federal custody after violating the terms of his early release from prison, his lawyer confirmed to reporters. Cohen, 53, was released to home confinement on “furlough” in May due to coronavirus concerns, and was in federal court on July 7 to arrange the conditions of his home confinement.
He was taken from the courthouse in handcuffs after he “refused the conditions of his home confinement,” a Bureau of Prisons official said in a statement. “And as a result, has been returned to a BOP facility.” Cohen was told that he could have “no engagement of any kind with the media, including print, TV, film, books, or other form of media/news,” and that he couldn’t use social media,” to which he objected.
Cohen has a book deal, and did not want to give it up, his lawyer said. He was taken to Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, the same federal facility currently holding Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s associate arrested for being an alleged co-conspirator in his crimes.
UPDATE, 5/21/20, 11:45am ET: President Donald Trump‘s former lawyer, Michael Cohen was released early from federal prison amid coronavirus concerns. Cohen, 53, was spotted heading into his New York City apartment building the morning of May 21, wearing a face mask, jeans, blazer, and baseball cap. He served just over a year of his three-year sentence behind bars at Otisville prison in upstate New York. Cohen was eligible for release from prison in November 2021.
ORIGINAL: 1. Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in federal prison on December 12, 2018. He pleaded guilty to tax evasion and lying to Congress about paying “hush money” to silence Stormy Daniels and Playboy playmate Karen McDougal about claims they had affairs with Donald Trump. “Each of these crimes is a serious offense against the United States,” the judge told him. “Mr. Cohen pled guilty to a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct.”
He is expected to start the sentence on March 6, 2019. Prior to the sentencing, Michael took “full responsibility” for the crimes, “for each act that I pled guilty to…the personal ones to me and those involving the President of the United States of America. My own weakness was blind loyalty to the man that caused me to choose the path of darkness. Time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”
2. He admitted he paid off Daniels. When Daniels, 39, first shared her story about her alleged 2006 affair with Trump, Cohen immediately jumped to his client’s defense. Yes, Daniels was given $130,000 to stay quiet about the affair, but Cohen claims that it came out of his own pocket. It’s the timing of the payment that raises red flags. It wasn’t in 2006, when the alleged affair occurred, or in 2011 when Life & Style printed their story about the scandal. It was 11 days before the 2016 presidential election.
In a February 13 statement, Cohen said that, despite the payoff, he doesn’t actually think Daniels and Trump had an affair. “Just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean that it can’t cause you harm or damage,” he said.“I will always protect Mr. Trump.” The payoff could be a possible violation of federal campaign law.
Cohen’s personal lawyer, David Schwartz, maintained his innocence to CBS News.”Mr. Cohen paid the $130,000 but the reason is to protect business, protect reputation, and to protect family,” Schwartz said. Former former federal prosecutor Kim Wehle told the outlet, though, that “Mr. Cohen is getting himself into deeper legal problems that could make him more vulnerable in the Mueller investigation. I don’t think that necessarily benefits others that are potentially the topic of that investigation including the president of the United States himself.”
3. Daniels sued him for defamation. Daniels amended her lawsuit against Trump on March 26, 2018, claiming that Cohen defamed her when he suggested that she lied about her alleged affair with the now-president. The complaint argues that though Cohen didn’t directly accuse Daniels of lying about the alleged affair, he defamed her by implying it.
Daniels claims in the lawsuit filed by her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, that, “It was reasonably understood that Mr. Cohen meant to convey that Ms. Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels is a liar; someone who should not be trusted. Mr. Cohen made the statement knowing it was false, or had serious doubts about the truth of the statements.”
4. He has a history of alleged threats. Cohen has publicly threatened journalists. “I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have,” he said to a Daily Beast reporter who once called him for a story. “So I’m warning you, tread very f**king lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f**king disgusting. You understand me? You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up…for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet
“You’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added. He also retweeted threats to Megyn Kelly. After she grilled Trump on his treatment of women during that infamous 2015 GOP debate, he called Megyn a liar and retweeted people who said “Let’s gut her,” and called her a “snake” and a “psycho.”
5. He’s named in the Russian collusion investigation. The Daniels situation likely has nothing to do with Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian collusion in the Trump 2016 campaign — but other behavior gives pause. Mueller has requested documents and interviewed witnesses in incidents involving Cohen.