President Donald Trump and his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen said Michael Avenatti is trying to reactivate Stephanie Clifford’s Los Angeles lawsuit “to continue his media tour” in court.
Clifford, the adult movie star who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, will suffer no harm if the case she brought to get out of a 2016 “hush agreement” remains on hold, according to a filing Friday in federal court in Los Angeles by Cohen and Trump’s lawyers.
U.S. District Judge S. James Otero agreed in April to temporarily halt the Los Angeles proceedings after Cohen said he’d be forced to use his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if he were asked to testify. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating Cohen for possible fraud, and Otero said he believed the lawyer would probably be indicted.
Avenatti argued that halting the case would harm Clifford because she can’t speak freely and has been threatened with more than $20 million in possible damages for talking about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Avenatti asked that the stay be lifted last month, saying that Trump’s subsequent acknowledgment that he knew about the hush payment invalidated the reasons why the case was halted.
This week, Avenatti withdrew his request to participate in the litigation around the FBI’s search of Cohen’s office and residences after a federal judge in Manhattan said the lawyer’s frequent public comments about Cohen may taint a jury if charges are filed. Cohen and Trump said in Friday’s filing that Clifford has appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and that Avenatti has appeared on TV at least 39 times since the L.A. lawsuit was halted.
“They don’t like me speaking to the public because they know it’s working,” Avenatti said in an email. “Judge Otero long ago brushed off their overblown complaints about my media exposure. They went nowhere.”
The lawyer tweeted on Friday that contact earlier this year between Cohen and Clifford’s former lawyer, who negotiated the $130,000 non-disclosure agreement in 2016, was “inappropriate and prejudicial” to his client. Avenatti posted emails between Cohen and the lawyer, Keith Davidson, from January and February alerting each other to media inquiries about her payoff.
A spokesman for Davidson said the lawyer is barred from discussing the matter because of attorney-client confidentiality rules and because of the ongoing investigation of Cohen.
“Davidson is unable at this time to respond point-by-point to each one of the numerous false and misleading accusations made by him over the last several months,” the spokesman said in an email. “Davidson looks forward to responding to these scurrilous accusations in an appropriate manner, which does not include Twitter.”
Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, didn’t immediately respond to a call for comment on the emails.
(Updates with comment by Davidson spokesman in eighth paragraph.)
–With assistance from Erik Larson .
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