A California judge halted Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit against Michael Cohen for 90 days while the criminal investigation of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney moves forward in New York.
Cohen had asked to halt the lawsuit because he would assert his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself while the criminal investigation continues. He said he wouldn’t be able to fully respond to questions that arose in Daniels’ lawsuit.
In short, the lawsuit put Cohen in the hot seat at the same time he’s fending off the criminal probe.
Because Cohen was the "alleged mastermind" behind a hush agreement and settlement payment with Daniels over her alleged affair with Trump, Judge James Otero wrote, he would have to choose whether he would take the Fifth or defend himself on "every major aspect" of the details in the case.
Otero further said he believes Cohen could be indicted.
"[T]he significance of the FBI raid cannot be understated," he wrote, nodding to the proceedings in New York that this week brought in a third-party lawyer to review Cohen’s documents for confidential information before prosecutors can use them. "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.
"Whether or not an indictment is forthcoming, and the Court thinks it likely based on these facts alone, these unique circumstances counsel in favor of stay."
When the FBI raided Cohen’s hotel room, home and office earlier this month, it seized records related to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
The pause in the lawsuit will prevent Daniels from attempting to depose Trump and gain access to other documents and testimony from Cohen.
In her lawsuit, Daniels is asking whether the hush agreement was legal, and is looking at whether Trump consented to it, the judge in California wrote.
"Both of those topics could have an impact on the criminal proceedings and may be legitimately interpreted as potentially incriminating to Mr. Cohen," the judge wrote. "Any deposition taken of Mr. Cohen, assuming he took full advantage of his Fifth Amendment privilege, would thus be utterly useless to the Court."
Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, said they plan to file an appeal.
"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," Avenatti wrote on Twitter. "We will likely be filing an immediate appeal to the Ninth Circuit early next week. Justice delayed is justice denied."
The California court will revisit the lawsuit at a hearing on July 27.
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