Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen leaves federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 22, 2021.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
Donald Trump‘s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen completed his criminal home confinement sentence Monday — and vowed to continue helping law enforcement investigate the ex-president, the Trump Organization, and others in Trump’s orbit.
Cohen, who controversially was tossed back into prison briefly last year by federal authorities after winning an early furlough, also told CNBC he will keep pushing “to advance prison reform in any way I can.”
“My release today in no way negates the actions I took at the direction of and for the benefit of Donald J. Trump,” Cohen said in a statement after submitting paperwork at Manhattan federal court to end his home confinement.
But Cohen said “it also does not negate the behavior of the Justice Department,” Trump’s attorney general William Barr, the federal prosecutors who lodged criminal charges against him, his sentencing judge “or Donald Trump himself in my initial prosecution.”
A lawyer for Cohen previously said he appeared to have been unjustly targeted and selectively prosecuted during the Trump administration. The lawyer also said Cohen was not given credit against his sentence despite cooperation with investigators, while others in the Trump Organization were not prosecuted by federal authorities.
In his statement Monday, Cohen said, “I remain cognizant of my responsibilities and my release today will not cease my commitment to law enforcement.”
“I will continue providing testimony, documents and cooperation on all investigations to ensure that others are held responsibly for their dirty deeds and that no one is ‘ever’ believed to be above the law,” he added.
The Manhattan resident, once counted among Trump’s most loyal employees, in recent years has become a leading critic of the former president and a key witness in criminal and civil probes that still plague Trump.
Those investigations include one by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which in July criminally charged the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg with a long-term scheme to avoid paying taxes on executive compensation. Trump’s company and Weisselberg have pleaded not guilty in that case.
The DA’s office and the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James are continuing probes based on Cohen’s allegations that the Trump Organization misstated the value of real estate assets to fraudulently lower tax liability and to win more favorable loan and insurance terms. Cohen made the accusations during testimony to Congress.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal tax crimes, lying to Congress and to campaign financial violations. The charges related to hush money payments to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, shortly before the 2016 presidential election to keep them quiet about their claimed affairs with Trump. The ex-president denies the women’s claims.
Cohen admitted that he facilitated the payments to Daniels and McDougal at the direction of Trump. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office has said that Trump, identified as “Individual-1,” in charging documents, acted in coordination with Cohen and directed him with the goal of influencing the outcome of the 2016 election.
However, the U.S. Attorney’s office has never charged Trump with crimes related to that scheme, despite its prosecution of Cohen for it.
Cohen, who was disbarred for his crimes, was sentenced to three years in prison.
But he was furloughed to home confinement in the spring of 2020 after serving more than a year behind bars because of concerns that he was at heightened risk from Covid-19 due to pre-existing health conditions.
Weeks after being released, Cohen was thrown back in prison after he refused a demand by federal probation officials that he not publish a planned book about Trump, or any other book, while serving the balance of his sentence in home confinement.
Trump was still president at the time, and his attorney general Barr oversaw the Bureau of Prisons, the agency that ordered Cohen to be locked up again.
Cohen was released from prison within weeks after a federal judge ruled that his re-imprisonment was retaliatory.
“I’ve never seen such a clause” restricting publication of a book “in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people,” Judge Alvin Hellerstein said at the time.
The BOP denies it retaliated against Cohen, whose book about Trump, “Disloyal,” became a bestseller.
Earlier this year, Cohen lost a bid to end his home confinement earlier by seeking credit against his sentence as a result of work and educational courses he completed in prison.
Cohen cited the First Step Act, a federal law signed by Trump that seeks to reduce the size of the federal prison population by having the U.S. attorney general develop a system to assess and reduce the risk of recidivism of inmates through educational programs and other means.
The judge who denied Cohen’s effort endorsed the argument by prosecutors that the First Step Act program envisions a “phase-in period” that will allow the BOP to develop tools to assess the risk of recidivism by Jan. 15, 2022.
Cohen told CNBC that his continued efforts to reform U.S. prisons will include “ensuring that all federal inmates receive the earned time credits pursuant to the First Step Act effective Jan. 15.”