September 27, 2020

Michael Cohen Claims in Suit He Was Imprisoned to Stop Trump Book

Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, has filed a lawsuit accusing the Trump administration of sending him back to prison to stop him from finishing a “graphic and unflattering” tell-all book.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Manhattan late Monday night on Mr. Cohen’s behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union and private lawyers. It asked a judge to immediately release Mr. Cohen and allow him to serve the remainder of his three-year sentence under home confinement.

The suit maintains that Mr. Cohen’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was returned to a federal prison in New York on July 9 after several weeks on medical furlough.

It also accuses Attorney General William P. Barr and federal prison officials of trying to stop the publication of Mr. Cohen’s book, which, court papers say, paints the president as a racist.

“The government cannot imprison Michael Cohen for writing a book about President Trump,” said Ben Wizner, director of the A.C.L.U.’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Bureau of Prisons said in a statement that it would not comment on pending litigation or legal proceedings.

Mr. Cohen, 53, had been allowed to go home in May as part of an effort by the Bureau of Prisons to curb the spread of coronavirus behind bars. He was expected to serve the rest of his term under home confinement.

But federal officials returned him to prison in early July after he refused to sign an agreement promising, in part, that he would not publish a book while still serving his time.

Mr. Cohen’s lawsuit said he wrote his book in the prison library, adding that it was tentatively titled “Disloyal: The True Story of Michael Cohen, Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump.”

According to the lawsuit, the book will provide Mr. Cohen’s “firsthand experiences with Mr. Trump” and offer “graphic details about the president’s behavior behind closed doors.”

“The narrative describes pointedly certain anti-Semitic remarks against prominent Jewish people and virulently racist remarks against such Black leaders as President Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela,” the lawsuit says.

In the lawsuit, Mr. Cohen is represented by the law firm Perry Guha and the A.C.L.U.

Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations and other crimes connected to a scheme to pay hush money to two women — a former adult film actress and a former Playboy model — who claimed they had affairs with Mr. Trump before he was president.

In his guilty plea, he pointed the finger at the president, telling the court that Mr. Trump had directed him to make the hush payments for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election. Mr. Trump has denied the allegations.