Stormy Daniels loses bid to restart Trump lawsuit
Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford will have to wait.
A federal judge denied a request to resume her stalled lawsuit to get out of a 2016 nondisclosure agreement that bars her form talking about an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump more than a decade ago.
U.S. District Judge S. James Otero in Los Angeles said Tuesday the request by Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, didn’t overcome the seriousness of the criminal investigation into Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who got a 90-day hold placed on the suit after pleading his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
“The gravity of the criminal investigation and the various competing interests in this action counseled in favor of a temporary stay,” Otero said.
Trump and Cohen are both defendants in Clifford’s lawsuit. Michael Avenatti, her attorney, argued in May that Trump’s sudden acknowledgment of a 2016 hush agreement with Clifford – which the president had previously denied knowing about – meant the case could move ahead without Cohen.
When the stay was issued on April 27, the California judge wasn’t aware of Trump’s statements a day earlier on Fox News, where the president said the criminal investigation in New York had nothing to do with the hush-agreement case, Avenatti said in the May filing. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, also asserted Cohen’s innocence on May 2, telling Fox’s Sean Hannity that Trump was aware of the agreement and repaid Cohen for the “perfectly legal” hush payment.
“Mr. Trump or Mr. Giuliani’s belief in Mr. Cohen’s innocence has absolutely no bearing on Mr. Cohen’s Fifth Amendment privilege,” Otero said. “As the holder of the privilege, it is Mr. Cohen himself who must determine whether there is a reasonable risk of incrimination’ that would justify his silence.”
Avenatti said he will file an appeal shortly. “The ruling was not unexpected,” he said Tuesday.