Wednesday 29 January 2020

Trump lawyer to plead the Fifth in Stormy Daniels case

Michael Cohen says he will exercise his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Michael Cohen says he will plead the Fifth Amendment (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
Michael Cohen says he will plead the Fifth Amendment (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

By Michael Balsamo, Associated Press

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer has said he will assert his constitutional right against self-incrimination in a civil case brought by a porn actress who said she had an affair with Mr Trump.

Michael Cohen has been asking a federal judge in Los Angeles to delay Stormy Daniels’ case after FBI agents raided his home and office earlier this month, seeking records about a nondisclosure agreement Ms Daniels signed days before the 2016 presidential election.

Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006 and has sued to invalidate the confidentiality agreement that prevents her discussing it. She is also suing Mr Cohen, alleging defamation.

Mr Cohen sought to delay the civil case 90 days after the raid, arguing that his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination may be jeopardised if legal proceedings are not stayed.

But last week, US District Judge S James Otero said there were “gaping holes” in Mr Cohen’s request for a delay.

Mr Cohen’s lawyer argued in court last week that because the criminal investigation overlaps with issues in the lawsuit, his client’s right against self-incrimination could be adversely impacted because he will not be able to respond and defend himself.

In a court filing on Wednesday, Mr Cohen said that FBI agents had seized “various electronic devices and documents in my possession” which contain information about the 130,000 US dollars Ms Daniels was paid as part of the agreement. Agents also seized communications with his lawyer, Brent Blakely, about the civil case, Mr Cohen said.

Ms Daniels has offered to return the 130,000 dollars and argues the agreement is legally invalid because it was only signed by her and Mr Cohen, not by Mr Trump.

Mr Cohen will assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination “in connection with all proceedings in this case,” he wrote.

Ms Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said Mr Cohen’s filing was a “stunning development”.

“Never before in our nation’s history has the attorney for the sitting President invoked the 5th Amend in connection with issues surrounding the President,” he tweeted.

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