US DOJ treats Trump enemies differently than Trump friends

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen says he has been punished by officials for writing a book critical of the president.

When President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen sued late on Monday over his return to prison, he said he was facing retribution because he is writing a book critical of his former boss.

The surprise move against Cohen, who had been released to home arrest because of the coronavirus pandemic, has some legal experts and congressional Democrats asking whether Trump and United States Attorney General William Barr are manipulating the justice system to reward Trump’s allies and punish his enemies.

Trump’s decision to spare longtime friend Roger Stone from prison, and the Department of Justice dropping its case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn despite his guilty plea have commanded more national attention. But outspoken critics, including Cohen and celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, may be getting worse treatment, some legal observers said.

Cohen, who once boasted he would “take a bullet” for Trump before turning on him, said a July 9 meeting with probation officials ended with marshals shackling him after he hesitated to sign a gag order banning him from engaging with the media, using social media or writing a book. Days earlier, Cohen had tweeted that his book was nearly complete.

“He is being held in retaliation for his protected speech, including drafting a book manuscript that is critical of the President,” said the lawsuit against Barr filed by Cohen in federal court in New York City. A hearing has been scheduled for Thursday on an emergency motion seeking Cohen’s immediate release.

Avenatti was convicted of trying to extort Nike Inc, but was released due to the pandemic. As a condition of his release while he awaits trial in two other cases, prosecutors demanded that Avenatti be banned from internet access.

In a June 25 letter from Avenatti sent to legislators and seen by the Reuters News Agency, he said he was temporarily housed in a cellblock that has held high-risk detainees including drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

“This is sort of like the Nixon enemies list, where the BOP and senior political appointee DOJ officials put their finger on the pulse and regulate it,” said Joel Hirschhorn, a Miami criminal defence lawyer. “There is no question that this was driven by political influence.”

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