President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has chosen to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights in the Stormy Daniels case. He filed papers to reflect that choice on Wednesday, asserting that he declines to testify on the grounds that he might incriminate himself.
Cohen is facing the court after the FBI raided his personal residence, office and hotel room, in conjunction with the investigation into possible Russian influence on the 2016 presidential race. That raid led to the seizure of “various electronic devices and documents in my possession,” he cited in his filing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
“Based upon the advice of counsel, I will assert my Fifth Amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York,” Cohen said.
Attorney Michael Avenatti, who is serving as Stormy Daniels’ representation, in this case, called Cohen’s declaration “a stunning development.”
“Never before in our nation’s history has the attorney for the sitting President invoked the 5th Amend in connection with issues surrounding the President,” Avenatti tweeted. “It is esp. stunning seeing as MC served as the ‘fixer’ for Mr. Trump for over 10 yrs. #basta.”
Avenatti also believes that Cohen invoking his Fifth Amendment right will serve to strengthen the case against him.
“The fact finder — whether it be a jury or a judge — can find what is called a negative inference, and what that means is that you can presume that if the witness answered the question instead of invoking his Fifth Amendment right, that the answer would incriminate him, that it would not be positive for him or her– and that’s a very serious matter,” Avenatti said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”
In a recent surprising turn of events, President Trump has acknowledged that Mr. Cohen represents him in connection with Stephanie Clifford (aka, Stormy Daniels). However, President Trump insists that Cohen did nothing wrong, describing whatever he believes Cohen to have done as “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work.
“But Michael would represent me and represent me on some things,” the president said in a telephone call to “Fox & Friends,” his favorite cable television show. “He represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me.”
“From what I see,” he continued, “he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this, which would have been a problem.”
Cohen and his attorneys are requesting a stay in the matter, which opposing counsel believes shifts the burden of proof to them. The “conundrum,” the judge said, is that “the scope and breadth of the criminal investigation remain a mystery.”
The Los Angeles court presiding judge, S. James Otero, has stated he has yet to be made aware of the affidavit pertaining to the New York searches that will greatly influence the case, and whether it falls into federal court jurisdiction.
“You’re going to make sure that it’s more than just a bare-bones case,” Otero added. “It’s probably substantially likely that there’s some sort of criminal action to follow.”