Bureau of Prison officials in New York gave their bosses in Washington, DC, a heads up before hauling Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, back to prison late last week, a law enforcement official told CNN.
New York prison officials reached out to Washington after Cohen balked at a provision in a home confinement agreement that prohibited his engagement with the media, but before he was led away in shackles by US Marshals, the official said.
The decision to detain Cohen was ultimately the call of local Bureau of Prison officials, the official said, noting that the call to counterparts in Washington was only out of courtesy and not because of any political interference.
“Nobody in BOP ever discussed what his conditions should be,” the official said. “Nobody gave direction on how to handle Michael Cohen as far as BOP was concerned.”
Bureau of Prison officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Cohen’s lawyers have said the former Trump attorney never said he wouldn’t sign and was merely exploring his negotiation options. Cohen adviser Lanny Davis has alleged that the provision was added because of a tell-all book Cohen is writing about his years working with the President and suggested there was political influence in the decision to remand him.
“There is nothing about the Bureau of Prisons jurisdiction, meaning to secure prisoners even under home confinement, that has anything to do with the contents of a book about the President of the United States,” Davis said. “That’s about politics. The Justice Department is supposed to be about the law.”
As Covid-19 began to spread throughout the country, Attorney General William Barr directed the Bureau Prison to release certain high-risk inmates to serve their sentences from home.
Cohen was one of these inmates, leaving New York’s Otisville prison on furlough status with time left on his three-year sentence for tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations for facilitating payouts to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump. The President has denied these claims.
Cohen arrived at the Lower Manhattan courthouse on Thursday with his lawyer Jeffrey Levine to negotiate the terms of agreeing to home confinement, Levine previously told CNN.
The pair, who thought the process was a formality and would end with Cohen being outfitted with an electronic monitor around his ankle, walked into the courthouse just before 11 a.m. where they met with probation officers.
That’s when they were given a copy of the Federal Location Monitoring Agreement form that would prohibit Cohen from posting on social media and from engaging with the media — specifically listing “books.”
Levine previously told CNN that the probation officers they met with said they would check with supervisors to determine if there was anything that could be done do to take out the stipulation.
Normally, probation officials would report to the Bureau of Prisons if someone in their custody violates an agreement or some stipulation that would warrant being sent back to a prison facility, the official said. Bureau of Prison officials would then make the decision and instruct the US Marshals to transport the inmate, the official said.
In Cohen’s case, probation officers told local Bureau of Prison officials that he had failed to agree to the terms in the document, according to the law enforcement official. Those prison officials then reached out to agency higher ups in Washington, letting them know that Cohen was about to be dragged back behind bars.
And then with no opposition from prison officials in Washington, Cohen was shackled and sent back to Otisville prison, where he is currently under a 14-day solitary confinement, according to his attorney.
His pleas to sign the document were too late, according to Cohen’s attorneys. Davis said Cohen offered to sign the document and was told by a US Marshal escorting him into custody, “It’s out of our hands.”