NYT: Michael Cohen Was Reimprisoned Out Of Retaliation For His Upcoming Book

Screengrab / @maggieNYT / Twitter


First Amendment law experts said the move was a clear violation of Michael Cohen's constitutional rights.

President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney was returned to prison not for violating his parole by dining out, as previously thought, but for refusing to sign an agreement that would block the publication of his upcoming book about the president, according to The New York Times.

The newspaper reported: “As part of his home confinement, probation officers asked Mr. Cohen on Thursday to agree to eight conditions, including ‘no engagement of any kind with the media, including print, TV, film, books, or any other form of media/news,’ according to a copy of the document obtained by The New York Times.”

Cohen refused to sign the agreement, considering that he has a book near completion. Cohen announced “on Twitter that he anticipated releasing a book in late September,” The times reported.

One week later, on July 9, he reportedly was presented with the surprise agreement, JustSecurity noted.

JustSecurity rounded up comments about the development, which the publication described as “very peculiar,” from leading First Amendment law experts:

A foremost scholar in First Amendment law, former Provost of the University of Chicago and Professor Geoffrey R. Stone calls the government’s action “patently unconstitutional.”

Robert Corn-Revere says it is “an obvious violation of his First Amendment rights.”

The ACLU’s Vera Eidelman writes that it is “almost certainly unconstitutional.”

Laura R. Handman puts the situation in the context of the political nature of Cohen’s speech. She writes that the government’s action is a “profound affront to the First Amendment … all the more so when the content of what he would share would likely be … information that is particularly vital to an informed public as they decide whether the President merits re-election.”

Jameel Jaffer, Executive Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, had a similar assessment also noting “this gag order is to suppress speech about the president, which is speech at the core of the First Amendment’s concern.”

Professor Jane Kirtley writes, “this is a prior restraint, pure and simple, and not only violates Cohen’s rights, but also the right of the public to learn what he has to say.”

Professor Burt Neuborne writes that “a flat ban on a federal prisoner writing a book or article is, in my opinion, indefensible.”

The only exception was Professor Roy Gutterman who writes that “the terms for house-arrest or home confinement as an alternative to prison might justify these restrictions” and then he raises some questions.

JustSecurity also noted that the Trump Organization previously tried to block the publication of Cohen’s book, which is “widely expected to include numerous and specific allegations unfavorable to the president.” Lawyers from Trump’s company reportedly sent Cohen a letter on April 30 “demanding that he halt writing his ‘tell-all book’ citing a non-disclosure agreement.”

Read more, including full comments from the First Amendment law experts.


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