Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s onetime lawyer and fixer, was in good spirits on Thursday when he arrived at a Manhattan federal courthouse, where he expected to complete routine paperwork related to his home confinement amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Cohen, who was released from prison in May on a medical furlough, was stunned when probation officers asked him to sign a document that would have barred him from speaking to reporters or publishing a book during the rest of his sentence, his legal adviser said.
Mr. Cohen, believing the agreement violated his First Amendment rights, refused to sign it, the adviser, Lanny Davis, said. Less than two hours later, federal marshals stepped out of an elevator with handcuffs and took Mr. Cohen back into custody.
Mr. Cohen’s return to jail was the latest twist in a case whose dizzying ups and downs have prolonged the legal woes of a man who once said he would take a bullet for Mr. Trump and later implicated the president in federal crimes.
In a statement, the federal Bureau of Prisons said that Mr. Cohen had been returned to jail after he “refused the conditions of his home confinement.”
As a federal inmate, the bureau said in a separate statement, Mr. Cohen must comply with bureau policies, including requirements that he consent to electronic monitoring and obtain approval for any media interviews.
Last week, Mr. Cohen said on Twitter that he anticipated releasing a book in late September. Mr. Davis said on Thursday that the book was ready for publication and would recount Mr. Cohen’s experiences working for Mr. Trump for years.
Mr. Cohen testified before Congress last year that he had previously turned down a deal worth around $750,000 to sell a book about his time working for Mr. Trump that was tentatively titled, “Trump Revolution, From the Tower to the White House, Understanding Donald J. Trump.”
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.
The purpose of the prohibition, the document said, was to “avoid glamorizing or bringing publicity to your status as a sentenced inmate serving a custodial term in the community.”
Mr. Cohen pointed out to the officers that he had spoken to reporters while he was in prison, Mr. Davis said.
After Mr. Cohen refused to sign the agreement, the probation officers said they would try to work out a resolution, Mr. Davis said.
Mr. Cohen and another of his lawyers, Jeffrey Levine, waited about 90 minutes, Mr. Davis said. Three federal marshals then arrived and, without warning, began to take Mr. Cohen into custody.
“He had the rug pulled out from under him,” Mr. Levine said in an interview.
At that point, Mr. Davis said, Mr. Cohen relented and agreed to sign the document to avoid returning to jail. The marshals continued to take him into custody anyway, Mr. Davis said, with one of them saying, “It’s out of our hands.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Cohen was brought to a federal detention facility in the city, according to two people briefed on his legal status.
Mr. Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations and other crimes, was released from federal prison on May 20 on a medical furlough and allowed to return to his home. He had asked to be released because, he said, he had medical conditions that might be worsened by the virus’s spread in prison.
It was expected that after finishing the medical furlough, he would serve the balance of his sentence under home confinement, abiding by a strict set of rules. But a final decision on that had not been made, officials said.
Before his release, Mr. Cohen had been serving a three-year sentence at a minimum-security camp next to a federal prison and detention center in Otisville, N.Y., about 75 miles northwest of New York City. He was scheduled to complete his sentence in November 2021, according to the prisons bureau.
The federal crimes that Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to were connected to a scheme to pay hush money to two women — a former adult film actress and a former Playboy model — who claimed they had affairs with Mr. Trump before he was president.
During his guilty plea in August 2018, Mr. Cohen pointed the finger at the president, telling the court that Mr. Trump had directed him to make the hush payments for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election. Mr. Trump has denied the allegations.
During his furlough from prison, Mr. Cohen was photographed on July 2 having dinner at a sidewalk table outside Le Bilboquet, a French restaurant near his Park Avenue apartment, according to The New York Post, which published the photograph.
The authorities did not contact Mr. Cohen after the episode and he did not believe it violated the terms of his release, Mr. Davis said.
Ben Protess and Benjamin Weiser contributed reporting.
Updated July 9, 2020
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