Michael Cohen may have to declare Stormy Daniels case could affect criminal probe

Jeremy B White
Michael Cohen leaves federal court in Manhattan: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen must formally declare that his right to avoid self-incrimination would suffer if adult actress Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit is not delayed, a federal judge said.

Attorneys for Mr Cohen were in court seeking a stay of Ms Daniels’ lawsuit seeking to release her from a confidentiality agreement. They argued allowing that challenge to proceed would undercut Mr Cohen’s Fifth Amendment rights in an investigation that produced federal raids on his home and office.

FBI agents were said to have sought information on a payout allegedly made to prevent Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, from speaking publicly about an alleged affair with Mr Trump (the White House has denied an affair occurred).

Seeking to limit their client’s exposure, Mr Cohen’s legal team asked to put Ms Daniels’ lawsuit on hold, noting that an “ongoing criminal investigation overlaps with the facts of this case”.

But to win a delay, Judge S James Otero said, Mr Cohen himself would need to file a statement declaring that his Fifth Amendment protections could be jeopardised.

Ms Daniels - whose real name is Stephanie Clifford - has sued to nullify a nondisclosure agreement she said she signed in connection with Mr Cohen paying her $130,000 before the election to not go public.

While Mr Cohen has acknowledged the payment, he has said he used his own funds and that the Trump campaign and the Trump organisation were unaware of the transaction. He has also denied an affair occurred.

The president has largely avoided acknowledging Ms Daniels and her claims. He has never mentioned her by name on Twitter, where he habitually savages foes and detractors, although he did earlier this week mock a composite sketch of a man Ms Daniels said threatened her over the alleged affair.