Trump Ex-Lawyer Cohen Seeks to Silence Porn Star's Attorney
(Bloomberg) -- Michael Cohen wants a judge to muzzle Michael Avenatti.
President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer is seeking a restraining order to bar the attorney for adult-film star Stephanie Clifford from talking to the press or public about her lawsuit against Trump and Cohen.
U.S. District Judge S. James Otero in Los Angeles on Friday denied Cohen’s request to immediately issue the restraining order and instead gave Avenatti a June 25 deadline to respond.
"The court rightfully shot down the request for emergency relief because there was never any basis for it," Avenatti said in an email.
Cohen claims Avenatti’s public attacks may deprive him of his right to a fair trial in Clifford’s suit, which seeks to nullify a hush agreement she signed in 2016 to keep quiet about her alleged tryst with Trump over a decade ago.
"Mr. Avenatti’s actions are mainly driven by his seemingly unquenchable thirst for publicity," Cohen’s attorney, Brent Blakely, said in a filing late Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles. Such exposure "threatens to turn what should be a solemn federal court proceeding into a media circus."
The request comes as Cohen’s legal troubles are mounting in Manhattan, where he’s the subject of a wide-ranging criminal investigation triggered in part by revelations in the California case, including the $130,000 payment to Clifford. Cohen’s legal team in New York is in flux, and his lawyers face a Friday deadline to finish reviewing documents seized in FBI raids on his home and office.
Avenatti claims Cohen’s payment to Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, may have violated federal campaign finance law. He said the request for a restraining order is part of a long pattern by Trump of trying to infringe the free-speech rights of people who challenge him.
"For over 12 yrs, Mr. Cohen and his boss Mr. Trump have routinely tried to ‘shut people up’ and hide the truth through intimidation & threats. Reporters, judges, adversaries, attys,” he said in a Friday tweet. “The motion is right out of their playbook."
Cohen bolstered his claim by citing U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in New York, who is presiding over Cohen’s request for a review of materials seized in the FBI raid. At a recent hearing, Wood told Avenatti that if he wanted to be admitted to the case, he would be required to cease his "publicity tour."
"If you participate here, you would not be able to declare your opinion as to Mr. Cohen’s guilt, which you did; you would not be able to give publicity to documents that are not public," Wood said at the hearing. "It would change your conduct."
Avenatti has countered that Cohen and his surrogates regularly blast his client in the press. Trump has posted "incendiary tweets" about the case to his 52 million followers, Avenatti has said, including claims that Clifford’s assertions are "false and extortionist" and that he’d sue her for $20 million.
Trump said on Friday that Cohen was no longer his lawyer.
Otero agreed in April to temporarily halt Clifford’s case after Cohen said he’d invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if he were asked to testify. The judge reminded the parties Friday that requests for emergency orders "are solely for extraordinary relief and are discouraged."
The cases is Clifford v. Trump, 18-cv-2217, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).
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