Few anti-Trump voices have been more vindicated than Michael Cohen. His claims during his 2019 testimony to Congress ended up serving as the basis for a New York criminal investigation that’s now begun bringing indictments against the Trump Organization. And his 2020 book “Disloyal” has become a New York Times number one bestseller. Now Cohen would like to remind everyone that the Trump administration went to extraordinary – and abusive – lengths to try to stop him from publishing it.
When COVID began overrunning the federal prison system in deadly fashion, Michael Cohen was one of numerous inmates who were allowed to finish their sentences under home confinement. But once the Trump Department of Justice figured out that Cohen was publishing a Trump tell-all book and was going to do a customary media blitz along with it, the DOJ tried to force him to sign a document agreeing to keep quiet. When he refused, the DOJ had him re-arrested and thrown back in prison. Eventually Judge Alvin Hellerstein intervened, and ordered Cohen released back to home confinement, where he remains.
Cohen’s tell-all book was published in September of 2020 and ended up going straight to number one; Donald Trump lost reelection two months later. Trump was right to fear the impact that the book might have on his reelection prospects. Trump’s loss also served to underscore his motivation for attempting to stop Cohen’s book from being published.
Now Cohen is moving to file a $20 million lawsuit against the Department of Justice, former Attorney General Bill Barr, and current Board of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal – a holdover from the Trump era who was installed by Barr. Given that Judge Hellerstein has already sided with Cohen on this matter, Cohen’s civil case feels like a strong one. Legal expert Walter Pavlo recently spelled out for Forbes that there is past legal precedent for Cohen winning his case. And given how blatantly Cohen’s constitutional rights have been abused by the government, we think there’s a strong legal argument that he should be immediately freed from home confinement.
But Cohen’s suit is bigger than just one person. For every Michael Cohen, who has at least been able to push back in the media against the Board of Prisons abuses he’s faced, there’s also a Reality Winner, who has been forced to endure Board of Prisons abuse in silence. And while Reality Winner’s case is at least known to the public, there are no doubt thousands of other Americans in federal prisons whose stories haven’t been told. Cohen’s suit, if successful, could strike fear into DOJ and BOP officials and result in less abusive sentencing conditions across the board.
Board of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal has clearly been a part of that pattern of abuse. This past week President Biden fired another Trump-era holdover, Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul, for abusing his position. There’s good cause for Biden to fire Carvajal as well. Michael Cohen’s suit should bring more attention to the abuses that Bill Barr, Michael Carvajal, and other former and current DOJ officials have carried out – and it may help the nation take a step forward on criminal justice reform. President Biden is seeking such reform; ousting Carvajal would be an important step.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report