April 20, 2018 / 6:11 PM / a month ago

Judge to review Trump, Cohen request to delay Stormy Daniels lawsuit

LOS ANGELES, April 20 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday declined to immediately grant a request by U.S. President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to delay a lawsuit by adult-film actress Stormy Daniels related to her alleged affair with Trump more than a decade ago.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued last month to get out of a non-disclosure agreement under which Cohen paid her $130,000 just before the 2016 U.S. Presidential election to obtain her silence.

At a hearing, District Judge James Otero in Los Angeles said he needed more time to review Trump’s and Cohen’s request to put Daniels’ case on hold for 90 days.

Lawyers for Trump and Cohen have argued that the civil lawsuit overlapped a criminal probe by federal prosecutors into Cohen’s business affairs, including the payment.

The lawyers said letting Daniels’ case proceed could impair Cohen’s constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.

If Cohen invoked that right, that could make it harder for Trump to defend himself, they said in a court filing.

Daniels claimed that the non-disclosure agreement was void because Trump did not sign it, and that Cohen defamed her by insinuating publicly that she lied about having an intimate relationship with Trump that she said began in 2006.

Trump and Cohen have sought to force arbitration, where new details about the case would be shielded from the public.

Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for Daniels, declined to say before the hearing what he thought might have prompted Cohen’s concern about self-incrimination.

On April 9, FBI agents raided Cohen’s Manhattan home, office and a hotel room, seizing several boxes of documents and electronic media on a variety of subjects.

Lawyers for Trump and Cohen believe many of the materials are subject to attorney-client privilege, and asked a Manhattan federal judge to stop prosecutors from reviewing the materials and deciding which are privileged. That judge has yet to rule. (Reporting by Dana Feldman in Los Angeles, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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