Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has long said that he was disproportionately targeted by the Justice Department and the Department of Corrections after it became clear he would no longer cover for his former client.
Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, has spoken to Congress. He also spoke publicly after he was shoved out of the Justice Department by former Attorney Bill Barr, for refusing to go after allegedly innocent people tied to former President Barack Obama. But another foe of Trump ultimately became Cohen.
An excerpt of Berman's book, "Holding the Line," scheduled to be released on Tuesday, alleges that the SDNY was going after Cohen even after Cohen agreed to plead guilty. While Cohen has pleaded guilty to nebulous tax charges, he maintains that he was innocent of the crimes cited in his plea.
"When Bill Barr took over as U.S. Attorney General, in February 2019, six months after Cohen's guilty plea, he not only tried to kill the ongoing investigations we were engaged in, but incredibly, he suggested that Cohen's conviction on campaign finance charges should be reversed," Berman wrote in the book. "Barr summoned my deputy who was overseeing the Cohen case, in late February to challenge the basis of Cohen's plea as well as the reasoning behind pursuing similar campaign finance charges against other individuals. He was told to cease all investigative work on the campaign finance allegations until main Justice determined there was a legal basis for the campaign finance charges to which Cohen pled guilty and until Barr determined there was a sufficient federal interest in pursuing charges against others."
They are allegations that Cohen details in his upcoming book Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized the Department of Justice Against his Critics, scheduled to be published Oct. 11, 2022.
An excerpt from the book shared with Raw Story, cites Berman, saying that the DOJ and SDNY are all supposed to act independently.
"Which is why Trump attempted to get Geoffrey Berman, the head of the criminal division, to resign; which he refused," the book excerpt explains. "The question needing to be asked is: why would the president of the United States be so focused on this one facet of the Justice Department other than for the reason that it was the court prosecuting my case? The answer is he wouldn't."
Berman recused himself from Cohen's case, but Trump said that it wasn't enough, Cohen's book details. "Since Trump appointed Berman to his position he believed that Berman owed him loyalty, which included acquiescing to Trump's desire to silence me through incarceration."
Even after Cohen was sent to prison to serve his sentence, he was given a house arrest option due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a non-violent offender, he could be on an ankle monitor and serve out his sentence from home. The Department of Corrections attempted to mandate that if he was under house arrest he could not speak out, write a book or do any interviews. Cohen refused and took them to court saying it was a violation of his First Amendment rights. He won and ultimately spent his time speaking out on everything that he knows about Trump.
Speaking to Raw Story, Cohen said that Berman's book "validates what I have been continuously saying as well as the premise of my upcoming book Revenge. Berman's failure to disclose what was occurring under his watch as head of the SDNY is at the least unethical and the most illegal. Berman needs to be questioned, indicted and prosecuted for his behavior; or lack thereof."
Berman explained, "The directive Bill Barr gave my deputy, which was amplified that same day by a follow-up call from Edward O'Callaghan, that was explicit. Not a single investigative step could be taken, not a single document in our possession could be reviewed. And if main Justice decided in the end that there was no legal basis for the charges, well, the attorney general of the United States would then direct us to dismiss the campaign finance guilty pleas of Michael Cohen, the man who implicated the attorney general's boss, the president."
The campaign finance charges were legitimate ones according to experts, but they would normally have been applied to the campaign and/or the candidate.
"Barr's posture here raises obvious questions," Berman said. "Did he think dropping the campaign finance charges would bolster Trump's defense against impeachment charges? Was he trying to ensure no other Trump associates or employees would be charged with making hush money payments or perhaps flip on the president? Was the goal to ensure that the president could not be charged after leaving office? Was it part of an effort to undo the entire series of investigations and prosecutions over the past two years of those in the president's orbit? Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn?"
The book then goes on to detail that the prosecution of Cohen and former Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) prompted the DOJ to order that former President Barack Obama's White House counsel be indicted for a crime he never committed. He was ultimately acquitted, but only after paying for a legal defense and having his name dragged through right-wing news sites.
Trump's Justice Department directed the SDNY not only to reevaluate the basis of Cohen's plea but they wanted SDNY to stop investigating anybody involved in those crimes committed by the Trump campaign to try to cover up evidence of alleged affairs, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow explained. "SDNY also was contacted by Trump's Justice Department, senior officials, and they were told that they needed to get rid of all mentions of 'Individual-1' in the Michael Cohen indictment. SDNY said no to that, they resisted. But SDNY officials did take out of the Michael Cohen related court filings the most direct language they had in those filings saying what role Trump played in those crimes."
As Berman described it, the information was being finalized after Cohen agreed to plead guilty. The documents were about 40 pages long and identified Individual-1 as acting in concert with Cohen. It was obvious that it was Trump, but Edward O'Callaghan called Robert Kuzami, demanding to know why the indictment was so long and detailed.
"He argued that now that Cohen was pleading guilty," the book says. "'We don't need all this description,' he responded. 'What exactly are you concerned about?' O'Callaghan proceeded to identify specific allegations he wanted to be removed, almost all of which referenced Individual-1, Donald Trump. It quickly became apparent that contrary to what O'Callaghan professed, it wasn't the length or the detail of the document that concerned him. It was any mention of Individual-1. Khuzami and O'Callaghan went through a handful of these allegations, some of which he agreed to strike, others he did not. Sensing this was going to be a long process, he told O'Callaghan he was now aware of his concerns and the team would remove certain nonessential details."
The book continues: "They stayed up most of the night. The revised information in Cohen's case was now 21 pages, down from 40. It removed certain allegations, including allegations that Individual-1 acted in concert with and coordinated with Cohen on the illegal campaign contributions. The information now alleged that Cohen acted in concert and coordinated with, quote, one or more members of the campaign. So, Individual-1, Donald Trump... 'he did this stuff with Donald Trump' becomes 'he did this stuff with someone from the campaign.' The specific mentions of Cohen committing this crime, this federal felony in concert with and coordinating with Trump in the commission of the crime, those specific references were taken out of this court filing to not mention Trump specifically. And the investigators on that case were also directed by main Justice that they needed to stop investigating anybody other than Michael Cohen for these crimes."
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced Monday evening that the Senate Judiciary Committee would be holding an investigation on the details in the book. They'll specifically seek documents involving Cohen, the John Kerry case and former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig's case.