Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen denied planned prison release day after getting warning about 'tell-all' book

Key Points
  • Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer and fixer for President Donald Trump, was denied a promised early release from prison.
  • The denial, which may be permanent, came a day after Charles Harder, a Trump Organization attorney, warned Cohen in a letter against publishing a planned "tell-all" book."
  • Cohen was due to be released Friday from a federal prison in New York state because of concerns about the coronavirus spreading among inmates and guards.
Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, gets emotional listening to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) give his closing statement after Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill February 27, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong | Getty Images

Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer and fixer for President Donald Trump, was denied a promised early release from prison Friday, a day after an attorney from the Trump Organization sent him a threatening letter warning against him publishing a reported "tell-all" book before the 2020 election.

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said "absolutely not" when asked at a news conference whether the White House directly or indirectly interfered in the decision to delay Cohen's planned early released from a federal prison in New York state.

Cohen was due to be set free into home confinement Friday from the facility in Otisville because of concerns about the coronavirus spreading among inmates and guards.

He has completed a 14-day quarantine required for that release.

But the 53-year-old ex-lawyer, who was in the midst of serving a three-year criminal sentence, was told he would not be going home on Friday to his family in Manhattan, according to people familiar with the situation.

It is not clear if Cohen's release, which was originally approved by the federal Bureau of Prisons, has been permanently rescinded.

Cohen's original release date, which is possibly now his current release date, was in November 2021.

The BOP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cohen's lawyer, Roger Adler, told CNBC in an email, "I am disappointed that Michael was not released after the 14 day quarantine period."

Trump says Cohen 'lied a lot' in 'fake hearing'

"It is my understanding that compassionate release applications are being reviewed by the BOP central office," Adler wrote. "It is my hope that following that review that Michael Cohen will be released either on a furlough, or transferred to home confinement."

Lanny Davis, another Cohen lawyer, said in a statement Saturday that he "remains in effect in solitary confinement, under quarantine, rather than under home confinement as he was led to believe would occur yesterday, May 1."

"As his friend and legal advisor, and on his and his family's behalf, we are disappointed not only that there was this delay but that no explanation has been offered to him or his family as to the reason for the delay," Davis said. "We hope that someone in positions of authority gives him and his family assurance that his release under home confinement for the remainder of his term will be forthcoming, for the valid reasons previously announced."

On Thursday, Charles Harder, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, sent Cohen a letter warning him that he would be at legal risk if he wrote a book about his time working for Trump, according to several people.

Harder did not immediately return a request for comment from CNBC.

The letter came 11 days after The Daily Beast reported that Cohen had been "writing an explosive tell-all book about his stint" as Trump's lawyer "and plans on releasing it before the election."

"The actor and comedian Tom Arnold, who has been in regular contact with Cohen while he has been in prison, says Cohen told him the book would pull no punches," The Daily Beast reported.

Arnold told the news site, "It's like 'Jaws'—you don't see Jaws very much, but you hear the music, and for Trump he knows Michael is coming and Trump better hear the 'Jaws' music."

"He told me he's been writing a book and he's pissed. He told me he is going to spill the beans. What has he got to lose now?" Arnold said, according to The Daily Beast.

Michael Cohen just testified before Congress. Here are the key moments

Adler, Cohen's lawyer, told CNBC that, "I have not seen the Harder letter. I accordingly cannot comment on it."

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to crimes related to facilitating hush money payments shortly before the 2016 presidential election to two women who claim they had sexual affairs with Trump, financial crimes and lying to Congress about details of a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Trump has denied having sex with either woman, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Cohen was known for years as a fierce defender of Trump. He since has become a harsh critic of the president.

-- Additional reporting by CNBC's Christina Wilkie.