Washington, April 26 (IANS) Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, said that he would assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination regarding his involvement in a non-disclosure deal involving porn star Stormy Daniels and the US President, the media reported.
The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution states that no individual can be “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”.
In court papers filed on Wednesday at the US District Court in Los Angeles, Cohen cited FBI raids of his residence, office and hotel room in New York earlier this month and the seizure of “various electronic devices and documents in my possession”, reports CNN.
“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 US Attorney for the Southern District of New York,” Cohen said.
He filed the declaration as part of an effort to have a civil lawsuit filed by Daniels put on hold.
The judge in that case, S. James Otero, said last week that he needed to hear from Cohen directly before deciding on that request.
Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ attorney, 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.
Avenatti told CNN that Cohen invoking the Fifth Amendment only strengthens their 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.
Otero, is tasked with determining whether there is a substantial overlap between the FBI raids in New York and the civil case before him in which Daniels is seeking to void an agreement in which Cohen paid her $130,000 to remain silent about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.
The White House has said Trump denies the affair.