Cohen is a central figure in the civil suit brought by the adult film actress, who accepted a $130,000 payment from Cohen shortly before the 2016 presidential election in exchange for keeping silent about her alleged affair with Trump. Daniels is now suing to invalidate the agreement she made with Cohen.
Cohen is also subject to a separate criminal probe, following an FBI raid of his home and office earlier this month. Federal agents seized documents related to the settlement with Daniels, among other personal emails and business records.
Judge James Otero, currently overseeing the civil suit brought by Daniels, determined there are too many of the same issues at play in both cases. He argued that Cohen’s testimony is “indispensable” considering he was “the alleged mastermind” of the deal between Trump and Daniels — but recognized that Cohen could invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid fully answering questions in the civil suit, so as not to further incriminate himself in the ongoing criminal probe.
Indeed, Cohen confirmed on Wednesday that he planned to assert his Fifth Amendment rights in the civil case brought by Daniels.
The news is a temporary reprieve for Cohen — and one that the attorney representing Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti, has vowed to fight, writing on Twitter that he expects to file an appeal within the next few days.
While we certainly respect Judge Otero’s 90 day stay order based on Mr. Cohen’s pleading of the 5th, we do not agree with it. We will likely be filing an immediate appeal to the Ninth Circuit early next week. Justice delayed is justice denied. #basta
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 27, 2018
But it’s not all good news for the president and his personal lawyer.
The judge also indicated that he expects Cohen to be indicted in connection with the ongoing criminal probe, pointing out that there must be serious enough allegations at play to justify the approval of the search warrants.
“[T]he significance of the FBI raid cannot be understated,” Otero wrote. “This is no simple criminal investigation; it is an investigation into the personal attorney of a sitting President regarding documents that might be subject to the attorney-client privilege.”
And there could be even more lawsuits coming. Daniels has suggested she may file a new legal suit next week, alleging that Trump libeled her when he accused her of perpetuating a “con job” by releasing a sketch of a man who she says threatened physical harm against her in 2011 if she didn’t stop talking about Trump.