President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Friday filed for a 90-day delay in porn star Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit, citing Monday’s raids on his home, office and hotel room by US prosecutors.
Cohen had already notified US District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday that he intended to request a stay in Daniels’ lawsuit against him and Trump “on the grounds that an ongoing criminal investigation overlaps with the facts of this case.”
The Friday motion said that because of that overlap, “Cohen’s Fifth Amendment rights may be adversely impacted if this case proceeds,” a reference to the possibility that his testimony could be used by prosecutors to build a related criminal case against him.
Cohen, who has denied wrongdoing, has been at the center of a controversy surrounding a $130,000 payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
She has alleged that she had sex once in 2006 with Trump and was paid shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about it. Daniels claims Cohen’s denials portray her as a liar and sued for defamation.
Her allegation was based on a Feb 13 statement by Cohen that she said hurt her reputation.
Cohen has admitted making the payment to Daniels and said he paid from his own pocket from a personal home equity loan.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Cohen’s offices and home on Monday as part of a probe into possible bank and tax fraud and possible campaign law violation connected to the payment, a source familiar with the investigation told Reuters.
A lawyer for Cohen, Stephen M Ryan, on Monday said that US prosecutors conducted a search that was partly a referral by the office of the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
In the defamation case filing, Cohen raised the possibility of invoking his constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination if the stay is not granted, which would allow him to refuse to testify.
Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for Stormy Daniels, told Reuters on Thursday that Cohen’s attorney told him that Cohen will plead the Fifth if his application for a stay is denied.
Cohen’s attorney Brent Blakely said on Thursday, “No decision has been made for Mr. Cohen to assert his Fifth Amendment rights.”
“It is common for a civil case to be stayed under these circumstances, and that is what we will be requesting of the US District Court tomorrow,” Blakely said in an email.
The judge in the suit had given Cohen until Friday evening to formally request the stay.
Daniels has until Monday evening to file her opposition, and then Cohen will have through Tuesday evening to respond.