In the midst of the global pandemic and a worsening economic crisis, one of the president’s most loathed turncoats got word that he’d receive an early release from prison to serve the rest of his sentence at home due to concerns over the coronavirus. The prisoner, his family, his friends were all relieved and predictably ecstatic when they got the news.
Donald Trump was not.
Cohen was serving three years in prison after taking a plea deal over illegal hush-money payments to two women, which he said Trump directed him to make. Trump denied directing Cohen to commit a crime, even though published audio exists of the two men privately discussing the hush money.
The president also discussed pursuing legal options against Cohen, if anything in his ex-fixer’s upcoming, dishy book on Trump breaks attorney-client privilege or is deemed defamatory or libelous, according to two individuals familiar with the matter.
“He was not pleased when he found out Michael was getting out early,” one of the individuals bluntly stated.
Before the news broke earlier this month on Cohen’s newly improved circumstances, the president had been passively monitoring details of Cohen’s confinement in the minimum security prison in Otisville, NY, after reports surfaced in January that his former lawyer was fighting for early release, according to a White House official.
Trump is said to be particularly irritated by what Cohen could detail in his upcoming, potentially explosive memoir, which was first reported by The Daily Beast, and whether its contents would perturb Trump enough to sue Cohen. This new manuscript comes two years after Cohen’s hopes of publishing a prior memoir—a pro-Trump screed with the working title of Trump Revolution—were dashed amid his escalating legal woes.
But a person with knowledge of the book project said they were not concerned about any legal action from the president or his Gawker-crushing celebrity attorney, Charles Harder.
“The stories that will be in the book aren’t privileged. The stories wouldn’t violate attorney-client privilege,” this person said. “They are stories about Trump’s personality and behavior that would raise an eyebrow. There are stories about what it’s like being around this man and things that he did that most people typically do not do. A lot of it will be about looking at things he’s said and done with women and other [politically incorrect] things. It’ll be an insider’s look about what it was like to be alongside the president for 12 years.”
A person close to Cohen said he was still “pissed” that he went to prison for crimes that Trump allegedly ordered him to commit, and the book would pull no punches and zero in on Trump’s treatment of women.
Similar Trump “tell-alls” from the likes of the president’s once sycophantic adviser and Apprentice star Omarosa Manigault Newman have contained an allegation that he used the N-word, while a book about Trump and women released last year, titled All The President’s Women, contained 43 new allegations of alleged inappropriate behavior with women, including 26 instances of unwanted sexual contact. (The official position of the Trump White House is that all the women accusing this president of sexual harassment or assault are lying.)
Weeks before the Trump administration declared a national emergency over the novel coronavirus and its mounting body count, Cohen’s lawyer made a play to get Inmate No. 86067-054 released early from jail—but received a blistering response from a judge.
“That Cohen would seek to single himself out for release to home confinement appears to be just another effort to inject himself into the news cycle,” U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III wrote in a scathing order. “Ten months into his prison term, it’s time that Cohen accept the consequences of his criminal convictions for serious crimes that had far-reaching institutional harms.”
The order exceeded the animus of even some longtime Trump allies, who recognize the extreme circumstance of the coronavirus threatening U.S. prison populations. “I haven’t been in touch with [Michael] but don’t see what is accomplished by keeping him incarcerated at a time like this,” said former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), a Trump supporter who’d been friends with Cohen, even after the 2018 federal raid that upended Cohen’s life and sealed his fate as an anti-Trump snitch.
Cohen’s attorney, Roger Bennet Adler, declined to comment, and the White House didn’t provide comment on this story. Harder, Trump’s personal attorney who often handles such matters and has threatened to sue people connected to anti-Trump books on behalf of the president, did not respond to multiple inquiries from The Daily Beast, either.
Cohen is due to be released from Otisville, following a 14-day quarantine period, on May 1 at 9 a.m. and then be reunited with his family and serve the remainder of his prison sentence on house arrest. “His family are ecstatic and they are really looking forward to having Michael back home,” the person close to Cohen said.
“I would hope the President of the United States would have more important things at this time to worry about than Michael,” the person added.
With Cohen’s transfer to house arrest imminent, the coming days will likely end the latest chapter in the long-running saga of Trump and Cohen, which for years played out as a relationship between an emotionally distant father figure and a bootlicker who had devoted his life to ruining others if it would make Trump happy.
The friendship came to a screeching halt as each wildly turned on the other, amid the pressures of federal investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Even in the weeks before Cohen publicly broke with Trump in 2018, White House officials had been encouraging allies and surrogates to stress to the media that even if Cohen were to decide to rat out the president, the Trump lawyer wouldn’t have anything good to give the feds because he didn’t know anything, two people with knowledge of the events said.
Turns out, Cohen knew enough.
And with his possible return to the public sphere on the horizon, Trumpworld is giving a collective eye roll. Other lawyers who’ve represented the president, including former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (with whom Cohen repeatedly tussled), did not comment for this story. Many in the Trump legal orbit would prefer it if Cohen would simply go away forever.
Asked to comment by The Daily Beast on Monday, John Dowd, an attorney who repped Trump for nearly a year of the Mueller investigation and who has continued informally advising the president, curtly replied, “Waste of time. Not worthy… Bye,” before quickly hanging up.