Stormy Daniels plans to sue Donald Trump for defamation after the president called a forensic sketch of a man who allegedly threatened her a “total con job.”
Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, vowed to file the defamation claim “in short order” following a hearing in Los Angeles federal court on Friday.
The proceeding related to Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s motion to delay Daniels’ primary lawsuit, which seeks to invalidate a “hush agreement” she signed weeks before Election Day over her alleged romp with the president.
Cohen sought a 90-day stay in the civil case, citing his battle with federal prosecutors in Manhattan over a pending criminal probe.
U.S. District Court judge James Otero didn’t make a ruling Friday. Instead, he told Cohen to file a declaration indicating his Fifth Amendment rights would be endangered if Daniels’ suit moves forward, the Associated Press reported.
Otero said Cohen would need to file his own statement by Wednesday. In his initial motion, the embattled Trump stalwart included a declaration from his own attorney, but Otero ruled the statement was not enough.
Outside the courthouse, Avenatti told the press he was pleased with the hearing. “To quote the court… there are gaping holes in the application by Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump to delay this matter,” he said.
Avenatti also said that he would soon file a separate lawsuit against Trump, or amend Daniels’ current complaint to include a defamation claim against him.
“I fully anticipate that we will be amending this complaint in short order, or filing a separate action against Mr. Trump for his defamatory, outrageous statements made earlier this week where he effectively called my client a liar and stated that she was trying to pull a con on the American people,” Avenatti said.
“I very much look forward to placing Mr. Trump under oath and asking him about the basis for those outlandish, outrageous, baseless statements,” he added.
In early March, Daniels filed a lawsuit to void a “hush agreement” she signed over her alleged affair with Trump in 2006. She claims the nondisclosure agreement—inked weeks before the 2016 presidential election in exchange for a $130,000 payout from Cohen—was invalid because Trump never signed it.
Daniels amended her complaint on March 26 to include a defamation claim against the president’s ultra-loyal attorney.
Judge Otero’s words capped off a dramatic week in the Cohen-Daniels circus that began with a hearing over Cohen’s FBI raid.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s Southern District is reportedly investigating Cohen for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign-finance violations. And the feds are seeking records about Cohen’s role in silencing Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the presidential election.
On Monday, Cohen was in Manhattan federal court requesting a temporary restraining order to stop prosecutors from reviewing seized materials, which he said were protected by attorney-client privilege and should first be sorted by an independent “special master” rather than federal investigators.
Daniels was in the courtroom as U.S. District Court judge Kimba Wood denied Cohen’s request. (Wood, who said she’d consider a special master, ordered the feds to provide an estimate of the volume of records seized.)
Cohen was also ordered to cough up a list of his clients. Before the proceeding, he’d named two and kept a third secret. But Wood demanded Cohen’s team name the mystery man, who ended up being Fox News host Sean Hannity.
On Tuesday, Daniels and Avenatti appeared on ABC’s The View to unveil a forensic sketch of a goon who allegedly threatened her to stay quiet about her affair with Trump. The encounter allegedly occurred in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011.
The day after her interview, Trump took to Twitter to call Daniels’ bully “a nonexistent man” and the sketch itself “a total con job.”
In her first live TV interview, Daniels said she’s speaking out against Trump and his loyal attorney because: “I’m done being bullied.”
When the conversation returned to Monday’s court hearing, Avenatti said, “There’s no question in my mind that Michael Cohen, a) is going to be indicted within the next three months, and b) he’s going to roll on the president.”
On Wednesday, Politico and The Wall Street Journal reported that some of Trump’s closest allies have warned him Cohen could “flip” and cooperate with the feds. “That’s what they’ll threaten him with: life imprisonment,” Trump-backing lawyer Alan Dershowitz told Politico. “They’re going to threaten him with a long prison term and try to turn him into a canary that sings.”
Jay Goldberg, who last represented Trump in the early 2000s, told the Journal that the president phoned him seeking advice last week. On a scale of 1 to 100—with 100 being fully protecting the president—Cohen “isn’t even a 1,” Goldberg told Trump.
Meanwhile, Avenatti tweeted Thursday that he and Daniels would “vehemently argue” against Cohen’s move to delay her lawsuit. “The American people deserve the truth as quickly as possible,” he wrote.
Cohen’s request for a 90-day delay of Daniels’ case was filed last week on Friday. Attorneys for Cohen and Trump said they requested the stay of proceedings due to the FBI raid on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. The searches were related, in part, to Daniels’ lawsuit against Cohen.
“Because the facts underlying this action and the criminal investigation related to Mr. Cohen overlap, Mr. Cohen’s Fifth Amendment rights may be adversely impacted if this case proceeds,” the motion states. The document was signed by Cohen’s lawyer, Brent Blakely, and Trump’s counsel, Gawker-slayer Charles Harder.
Avenatti, in court papers opposing the request, said Cohen and Trump didn’t provide any evidence justifying the stay of the porn star’s case. Indeed, Trump made no claim in court filings about his own Fifth-Amendment rights at all.
“Even though Mr. Cohen expresses concern about making self-incriminating statements… the record demonstrates that Mr. Cohen has already freely and openly discussed this matter in the public, including under oath in declarations filed in this case,” Avenatti wrote.
The defendants—who haven’t been indicted—didn’t present evidence “to demonstrate the materials the FBI seized have any relationship to this case,” Avenatti added.