The lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels argued Thursday that President Donald Trump's personal lawyer's "blanket claims" for Fifth Amendment protections are "expressly prohibited by law," according to a federal court filing in California.
Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, is responding to Trump attorney Michael Cohen's request Wednesday to plead his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in the Daniels lawsuit over her alleged affair with Trump because of the ongoing criminal investigation he faces in New York.
Cohen's request was an attempt to stop a lawsuit over a hush agreement he made with Daniels over the alleged 2006 encounter with Trump.
Cohen told the California court earlier this week that the FBI seized electronic devices and records related to his hush payment to Clifford in raids earlier this month.
In his response, Avenatti wrote that Cohen's lawyers "offer a skeletal declaration from Michael Cohen asserting an across-the-board, blanket refusal to answer any questions.
"But such blanket claims of Fifth Amendment privilege are expressly prohibited by law," he argued.
Avenatti also wrote that other witnesses could testify in the California case, and that would allow it to go forward without Cohen's testimony about certain topics. Avenatti says other potential witnesses include the bank that executed the payment to Daniels, Daniels' former attorney Keith Davidson, Cohen's wife and others.
Avenatti did not name the President as a potential witness in the lawsuit, though Trump is one of the parties being sued in addition to Cohen.
Avenatti also used Cohen's and Trump's own words to make the point that Cohen shouldn't be able to take the Fifth. Daniels' lawyer cited an interview Cohen gave to CNN in which he said his payments to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, were "perfectly legal." He also pointed to Trump's assertions Thursday morning that Cohen did "absolutely nothing wrong" related to the $130,000 payment to Clifford.
The judge in California, James Otero, indicated earlier this week he would look at whether "less drastic means or measures" than stopping the lawsuit from going forward are possible. The judge may also consider separating Daniels' complaint that Cohen defamed her from a complaint against Trump and a shell company Cohen used regarding the hush agreement.
Cohen was in court in Manhattan on Thursday. Cohen's lawyers and an independent attorney in New York are reviewing the documents to block any that might fall under attorney-client privilege from prosecutors. The criminal investigation involves the Daniels payment, which Cohen made weeks before the 2016 presidential election, and several other business matters.
On Thursday morning, Trump called into Fox News and acknowledged for the first time that Cohen represents him in "this crazy Stormy Daniels deal."
Avenatti, speaking on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" Thursday evening, said he believes Trump's statements on Fox strengthen their case and raises discrepancies in the claims put forward on Trump and Cohen's side.
"I think the President is making it up as he goes along," Avenatti said. "I think Michael Cohen has made it up as he has gone along, and this is what happens."