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Ex-Trump lawyer turned witness against him loses bid for release from probation

NEW YORK (AP) – Former United States (US) president Donald Trump’s onetime personal lawyer and the key witness against him in his New York state criminal prosecution lost his bid on Friday for early release from probation following a three-year prison sentence after federal prosecutors said he’s lying again.

US District Judge Jesse M Furman in Manhattan cited Michael Cohen’s recent comments in a book and television appearance as reasons to conclude that early release from court supervision would not ensure rehabilitation and deterrence from future crimes.

The credibility of Cohen – who served as Trump’s personal lawyer from his early 2017 inauguration until his 2018 arrest – will be scrutinised if a jury ever hears the state criminal case filed against Trump over payments Cohen says he made on Trump’s behalf to silence two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump before the Republican became president.

In court papers, federal prosecutors highlighted Cohen’s recent public comments in arguing against early release from probation rules that, among other things, restrict his travel, subject him to visits and scrutiny from a probation officer and ban him from owning firearms.

Prosecutors say Cohen falsely wrote in a book that he did not engage in tax fraud, that the charges were “all 100 per cent inaccurate” and that he was “threatened” by prosecutors to plead guilty. They noted that under oath at his plea hearings he admitted the crimes and said he was not threatened or forced to plead guilty. They said he also lied in a March television interview.

Michael Cohen. PHOTO: AP

In requesting early release for Cohen from court supervision, attorney David M Schwartz wrote that his client has “clearly demonstrated” that he has been rehabilitated after being a model inmate in prison and after having “substantially cooperated with all government authorities”.

Schwartz said via e-mail on Friday that he would leave public statements to his client. Cohen responded to a text message seeking comment by saying he will issue a statement tomorrow.

In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple charges, admitting that he lied to Congress, violated campaign finance laws through excessive political contributions, lied to multiple banks to obtain financing and evaded income taxes by failing to report over USD4 million in income. He was sentenced to three years in prison, although he served nearly two-thirds of it at home, released after the COVID-19 outbreak overwhelmed the nation’s prisons.

Despite Cohen’s claims that he has repeatedly aided state and federal authorities in investigations and deserves credit for his cooperation, federal prosecutors in Manhattan have consistently said his lies undermine his attempts at cooperation, as they did again in opposing his request to be spared from the year and a half left of his probation.