Trump DOJ Drops Gag on Michael Cohen in Bid to Close Rights Suit

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, stops to talk to a member of the press on May 4, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Jonathan Carroll)

MANHATTAN (CN) — A week after a federal judge ordered Michael Cohen’s release, federal prosecutors asked Thursday to close the case and agreed to abandon the gag order that sparked the First Amendment battle. 

“There is therefore no need for this court to resolve any further dispute about restrictions on [Cohen’s] contact with the media,” the government’s 2-page letter states.  

The Trump administration might be eager to cut its losses after a brutal hearing exactly one week ago in the court of U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who called the probation terms put before Cohen unlike any he had seen in his 21-year career. 

“I make the finding that the purpose of transferring Mr. Cohen from furlough and home confinement to jail is retaliatory, and it’s retaliatory because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish a book and to discuss anything about the book or anything else he wants on social media and with others,” Hellerstein ruled during a July 23 teleconference, ordering Cohen’s transfer to home confinement the next day.  

Records show that the government quickly renegotiated a new set of terms that Cohen signed on July 24, the day of his release.  

The offending clause that bars Cohen from posting on social media, talking to the press and releasing the book that he slated for release in September has been stricken. 

Cohen will have to remain under home confinement, report to probation officers for routine evaluations and notify authorities if he gets a job. The government’s agreed that its sign-off on Cohen’s employment will not be “unreasonably withheld,” as a backdoor to violate his First Amendment rights. 

Despite agreeing the case should be dismissed, prosecutors want Judge Hellerstein to resolve one loose thread: The Clinton appointee initially had ordered Cohen’s transfer to his home before issuing a written order for his “release.” 

“Therefore, with [Cohen’s] consent, [government attorneys] respectfully request that the court clarify that [Cohen] is on home confinement, rather than under a term of supervised release,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Rovner wrote.  

Cohen’s decision two years ago to cooperate with prosecutors sparked his transformation from Trump’s fixer at the center of a hush-money scandal to a client of the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Aiding separate investigations by then-special counsel Robert Mueller and the Southern District of New York, Cohen accused the president of crimes in court, in print and before Congress.  

In December 2018, Cohen’s sentencing judge described the former fixer’s admissions of tax crimes, lying to Congress and violating campaign-finance law as “veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct.” 

Cohen first won his release this past May by arguing that his medical history of severe hypertension made him susceptible to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Hellerstein, a senior and respected judge in the Southern District, still must approve the unopposed motion to close the case now that Cohen’s prison stint has ended. 

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