Below is my column in the New York Post on the denial of the early release requested by Michael Cohen in New York. What was most notable was the use of Cohen’s cable appearances on CNN and MSNBC to show that he is continuing a pattern of lying about his past criminal conduct.
Here is the column:
Michael Cohen was long known as the “fixer” for former President Trump — a legal thug who threatened students, journalists, and others on behalf of his former client.
While his loyalties have shifted with his fortunes, the one constant element in his career has been an utter disregard for the truth and a remarkable moral flexibility. The media now gushes over Cohen, a lawyer it once (rightfully despised) because he has become a Trump critic.
The one person, however, not falling for Cohen’s shtick is US District Judge Jesse M. Furman. Cohen came before Furman to ask for early release from his probation late last week and Furman refused. Prosecutors suggested that Cohen should try to stop lying before coming before the Court. Furman agreed and ruled that it would be better for everyone to keep Cohen under the supervision of the criminal justice system.
I have previously written about Cohen’s different hustles to attract money and advantage from the higher bidders. Furman was clearly not impressed and not buying.
In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to various charges, including tax evasion, campaign finance violations, lying to Congress and several banks to obtain campaign financing and was sentenced to three years in prison. However, if you watched his media appearance or read his book, you would think that Cohen is a victim of terrible injustice. Cohen has written not one but two memoirs: “Disloyal” in 2020 and “Revenge” in 2022.
He unsuccessfully sued Trump on the basis of a verbal contract on the basis of his own dubious veracity. The result was predictable.
As noted in the proceedings in Manhattan, Cohen has continued to misrepresent his criminal background and, after assuring the court that it was remorseful for his crimes, was regularly going on the air to deny that he committed tax fraud and suggesting that he was railroaded by prosecutors.
Prosecutors cited his numerous media appearances as containing false accounts of himself and his case: “while Cohen is free to write and say what he wants, he cannot simultaneously distance himself from his conduct on cable news, while cloaking himself in claims of acceptance of responsibility in court filings.”
Now that he is reliably anti-Trump, the media has rehabilitated Cohen as a reliable source and quotes his sage predictions (which usually involve Trump being found guilty on a variety of different crimes).
There is little interest in addressing the disbarred attorney’s history of lies and threats. Just weeks earlier portraying Cohen as virtual pond scum, media quickly declared him a hero who could “save America.”
His abusive antics are forgotten in favor of an image of the playful influencer on social media. He is now described as a TikTok star and fans post gushing reviews like “I want to hate you but you’ve turned into a hero.” Indeed, he is now an inspiration to many on the left: “Luv your excitement it makes me hopeful for justice.”
That feeling however does not extend to Justice itself. US attorney Damian Williams told the court that “Cohen’s recent efforts to back away from his prior acceptance of responsibility is evidence of the ongoing need for specific deterrence.”
I became a critic of Cohen long before he broke with the President. He was a disgrace to the bar for years and Trump bears equal blame for retaining such a person as his legal representative.
What Cohen lacked in legal skill, he made up for in a lack of ethical and professional standards.
In 2015, students on The Harvard Lampoon played a harmless prank on Trump by having him sit in the stolen “president’s chair” from the Harvard Crimson for a photo. Cohen threatened the students with absolute ruination. He was quoted by a student on the Lampoon staff as saying: “I’m gonna come up to Harvard. You’re all gonna get expelled. If this photo gets out, you’ll be outta that school faster than you know it. I can be up there tomorrow.”
On another occasion, after a journalist pursued a story he did not like, Cohen told the reporter that he should “tread very f—ing lightly because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”
Cohen remained Trump’s loyal attack dog until he was arrested and Trump refused to pardon him, That is when Cohen proved that when you scratch a lawyer, you can find a foe.
Cohen has been gaming the system his entire career. He claimed urgent medical needs for release from prison. Of course, he previously claimed health problems in failing to appear to testify only to be spotted out on the town for a fancy dinner. Cohen previously (and implausibly) reinvented himself as a redemptive sinner and received financial support from Trump critics. He continued that pattern after his conviction.
Notably, Cohen loves to discuss how he helped the Justice Department pursue Trump. However, the Justice Department informed the court that Cohen is about as reformed and serious as a Pirate of Penzance.
This is one hustle that Michael Cohen will not be able to land. It is hardly a major loss. He can always write a third memoir after “Disloyal” and “Revenge.” Perhaps “Shameless.”
Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.