Former lawyer for former US President Donald Trump Michael Cohen leaves federal court in the Manhattan area of New York City, NY, USA, November 22, 2021.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
Former Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and aide, Michael Cohen, served a home sentence on Monday and has pledged to continue assisting law enforcement in investigating the ex-president, the Trump organization and others in Trump’s orbit.
Cohen, who was controversially sent back to prison by the federal government last year after winning a parole, also told CNBC that he will continue to push for “pushing prison reform in whatever way I can.”
“My release today does not in any way override the actions I have taken on behalf of and in the best interests of Donald Trump,” Cohen said in a statement after filing documents with a federal court in Manhattan to end his home confinement.
But Cohen said that “it also does not deny the conduct of the Justice Department,” Trump Attorney General William Barr, the federal prosecutors who indicted him, the sentencing judge “or Donald Trump himself in my original charge.”
Cohen’s lawyer previously stated that he appeared to have suffered unfair persecution and selective persecution during the Trump administration. The lawyer also said that Cohen was not believed in his verdict, despite cooperating with investigators, while other Trump Organization employees were not prosecuted by federal authorities.
In a statement on Monday, Cohen said, “I remain aware of my responsibilities and my release today does not override my obligations to law enforcement.”
“I will continue to provide testimony, documents and cooperate in all investigations to ensure that others are held accountable for their dirty deeds and that no one is ‘ever’ considered above the law,” he added.
The Manhattan resident, once considered one of Trump’s most loyal employees, has become a leading critic of the former president in recent years and a key witness in the criminal and civil investigations that still haunt Trump.
Among those investigations is an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which in July accused the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, of a long-term executive compensation tax evasion scheme. Trump’s company and Weisselberg have pleaded not guilty to the case.
The District Attorney’s Office and New York Attorney General’s Office Laetitia James are continuing their investigation based on Cohen’s allegations that the Trump Organization misrepresented property values in order to fraudulently lower tax liabilities and obtain better loan and insurance terms. Cohen made the accusations while testifying in Congress.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal tax crimes, lying to Congress, and financial misconduct. The allegations are linked to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, shortly before the 2016 presidential election, to keep them from talking about their alleged relationship with Trump. The ex-president denies women’s claims.
Cohen admitted that he facilitated payments to Daniels and McDougal at Trump’s direction. The Manhattan prosecutor’s office said Trump, identified as “Individual 1” on the indictment documents presented, acted in coordination with and directed Cohen to influence the outcome of the 2016 elections.
However, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has never charged Trump with the crimes associated with the scheme, despite Cohen being prosecuted for it.
Cohen, stripped of his legal status for his crimes, was sentenced to three years in prison.
But in the spring of 2020, he was sent to home confinement after serving more than a year behind bars over fears that he was at increased risk of contracting Covid-19 due to pre-existing health conditions.
Several weeks after his release, Cohen was thrown back into jail after he waived a requirement by federal probation officers not to publish a planned Trump book or any other book while serving his remaining sentence at home.
At the time, Trump was still president, and his Attorney General Barr oversaw the Bureau of Prisons, the agency that ordered Cohen to be jailed again.
Cohen was released from prison a few weeks after a federal judge ruled that his re-imprisonment was repressive.
“I’ve never seen a clause like this ‘restricting book publication’ in my 21 years as a judge and sentencing,” Judge Alvin Hellerstein said at the time.
The BOP has denied that it retaliated against Cohen, whose Trump book “Disloyal” has become a bestseller.
Earlier this year, Cohen lost an attempt to end domestic confinement earlier, seeking compensation for his sentence through work and training he completed in prison.
Cohen cited the First Step Act, a federal law signed into law by Trump that aims to reduce the number of federal prisons by the US attorney general’s system for assessing and reducing the risk of recidivism among inmates through educational programs and other means.
The judge, who rejected Cohen’s efforts, echoed the prosecution’s argument that the First Step Act program provides for a “milestone period” that will allow BOP to develop recidivism risk assessment tools by January 15, 2022.
Cohen told CNBC that his ongoing efforts to reform US prisons will include “ensuring that all federal prisoners receive their earned temporary loans in accordance with the First Step Act effective January 15th.”