Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and longtime fixer, was released from a federal prison on Thursday due to concerns that he could be exposed to the coronavirus while imprisoned, according to a source familiar with the case.
Cohen, 53, had completed a bit more than a year of a three-year sentence for his role in paying hush money to two women – pornographic film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual relationships with Trump, as well as financial crimes and lying to US Congress.
He is expected to serve the rest of his sentence in home confinement. Cohen, who had been imprisoned in a facility in New York state, had been eligible for release from prison in November 2021.
Cohen was the second Trump associate released early from prison due to coronavirus concerns. Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was released last week.
Cohen is reportedly working on an unflattering tell-all book about his time working Trump that is expected to be published before the November presidential election. Lawyers for the Trump organisation are said to have warned him against doing so, according to ABC News, arguing that he is subject to non-disclosure agreements that prevent him from making public specific information about Trump and his family.
Cohen, who once said he would “take a bullet” for Trump, later turned on his former boss and cooperated with Democratic-led congressional inquiries. Trump has called Cohen a “rat”. Cohen has called Trump a “racist,” a “con man” and “a cheat”.
Prison advocates and congressional leaders have been pressing the Justice Department for weeks to release at-risk inmates before a potential outbreak, arguing that the public health guidance on social distancing is nearly impossible behind bars.
Attorney General William Barr ordered the Bureau of Prisons in March and April to increase the use of home confinement and expedite the release of eligible high-risk inmates, beginning at three prisons identified as coronavirus hotspots. Otisville is not one of those facilities.
Cohen was told last month he would be released to serve the rest of his three-year sentence at home in response to concerns about coronavirus. He had told associates he was expecting to be released earlier this month.
The Bureau of Prisons has placed him on furlough as it continues to process a move to home confinement, a person familiar with the matter said. The agency has the authority to release inmates on furlough for up to 30 days and has been doing so to make sure suitable inmates, who are expected to transition to home confinement, can be moved out of correctional facilities sooner.
A federal judge denied an earlier attempt by Cohen to secure an early release and said in a ruling earlier this month that it “appears to be just another effort to inject himself into the news cycle”. But the Bureau of Prisons can take action to move him to home confinement without a judicial order.
The Bureau of Prisons said last week that more than 2,400 inmates had been moved to home confinement since Barr first issued his memo on home confinement in late March, and 1,200 others had been approved and were expected to be released in the coming weeks.