President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, plans to exercise his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in a civil lawsuit involving adult film actress Stormy Daniels, according to court documents.
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Cohen submitted the declaration in a court filing in California late Wednesday afternoon.
In a letter penned by Cohen and included in the filing, Cohen points to the April 9 FBI raids on his home, office, and hotel room that he said involved documents related to his payment to Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged 2006 affair with Trump.
“During the corresponding raids, the FBI seized various electronic devices and documents in my possession,” Cohen writes, “which contained information relating to the $130,000 payment to plaintiff Stephanie Clifford at the center of this case.”
In her lawsuit, Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, claimed that the $130,000 hush agreement is invalid because Trump — under the alias “David Dennison” — never signed the contract.
“Based on the advice of counsel, I will assert my 5th amendment right in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York,” he said in the court filing.
Federal agents conducting the April 9 searches related to Cohen’s business dealings seized about ten boxes of documents, plus electronic files on multiple phones and electronic devices, according to court records.
Cohen says in his letter that he “first realized that his Fifth Amendment rights would be implicated in this case” on April 10 – one day after the FBI’s raids.
Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti wasted no time responding to the filing, tweeting that Cohen’s move is a “stunning development.”
Ahead of Wednesday’s declaration, lawyers for Trump and Cohen argued in court filings that there is “substantial overlap” between Daniels’ lawsuit and the criminal investigation.
“Mr. Cohen is a key witness in this action and Defendants’ most knowledgeable person with respect to the facts,” asserts his attorney Brent Blakely, noting that Cohen negotiated the settlement agreement with Daniels’ previous lawyer and arranged for the payment.
“Thus, if the case moves forward,” Blakely wrote, “Defendants’ key witness would have to choose between exercising his Fifth Amendment rights, and testifying on Defendants’ behalf.”