The civil suit against President Trump and his attorney/fixer Michael Cohen by Stephanie “Stormy Daniels” Clifford to release her from her $130,000 non-disclosure agreement has been put on a 90-day hold by a federal judge in a ruling today, according to Politico.
While the stay in the case was a victory for Cohen, who now has bigger troubles to deal with after the FBI raided his homes and office, the reasoning behind the ruling shows just how big those troubles are.
U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero told the lawyers for both sides of the suit that it now seems “likely” that Cohen will be indicted in a criminal case stemming from the investigation that led to the FBI searches.
Cohen had already signaled that he intended to invoke his fifth amendment rights in the civil case filed by Daniels and her attorney Michael Avenatti due to the pending criminal probe into his activities, and the judge agreed that Cohen’s potential jeopardy in the probable criminal case outweighed any urgency by Daniels to be released from her hush money deal.
Judge Otero cited the fact that Daniels and Avenatti have already revealed the bulk of her story in a series of frequent television appearances since the case began as one reason that Daniels wouldn’t be irreparably harmed by the three month delay in the case.
If the judge had allowed the civil case to move forward and Cohen pleaded the Fifth Amendment to avoid disclosing anything that might hurt his case in the criminal suit, it would work against his interests in the Daniels suit. On the other hand, if he didn’t take the Fifth, then Avenatti could ask questions that could damage his defense prospects in the criminal investigation.
The judge said as much in his ruling.
“The Court finds that there is a large potential factual overlap between the civil and criminal proceedings that would heavily implicate Mr. Cohen’s Fifth Amendment rights,” Otero wrote. “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.”
Judge Otero referred to Cohen in his ruling as “the alleged mastermind” of the non-disclosure deal, making his testimony “indispensable” in the case.
Daniel’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti was quick to declare that he was likely to appeal the judge’s decision to stay the case temporarily in a post on Twitter.
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. We will likely be filing an immediate appeal to the Ninth Circuit early next week. Justice delayed is justice denied. #basta
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 27, 2018
Given that the mountains of material seized by the FBI still has not been reviewed to remove any documents that might be subject to attorney/client privilege, a 90-day delay might be a conservative estimate of how long Daniels and Avenatti may have to wait.
Stay tuned for more developments, but the anticipation to see the details of a potential Cohen indictment is building to a furious crescendo of curiosity.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.