Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, declared on Wednesday that he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right in a lawsuit filed by Stephanie Clifford.
Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, was previously paid $130,000 by Michael Cohen in what she alleges was hush money intended to silence her from speaking out about an affair she had with Donald Trump in 2006.
Cohen's declaration reads:
- I have personal knowledge of the facts set forth herein, and if called and sworn as a witness, I could and would competently testify to the matters stated herein.
- On April 9, 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed three search warrants on my residence, office and hotel room, respectively, without any prior notice. During the corresponding raids, the FBI seized various electronic devices and documents in my possession, which contain information relating to the $130,000 payment to Plaintiff Stephanie Clifford at the center of this case, and my communications with counsel, Brent Blakely, relating to this action.
- Based upon the advice of counsel, I will assert my 5th 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.
- On April 10, 2018 I first realized that my Fifth Amendment rights would be implicated in this case, after I considered the events of April 9, 2018, described in the above paragraph 2. I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the foregoing is true and correct.
Michael Avenatti, Clifford's outspoken attorney, called the development “stunning” on Twitter.
“Never before in our nation’s history has the attorney for the sitting President invoked the 5th [Amendment] in connection with issues surrounding the President,” Avenatti tweeted. “It is [especially] stunning seeing as [Michael Cohen] served as the ‘fixer’ for Mr. Trump for over 10 yrs. #basta”
Given that the Fifth Amendment promises the right against "forced self-incrimination" (as Cornell Law scholars write), invoking it is often perceived by the public as an admission that there is something to hide. In 1990, after separating from first wife Ivana Trump, Trump himself invoked the Fifth to avoid answering a question during his divorce deposition.
Hypocritically, when a Hillary Clinton aide invoked the Fifth, Trump took the chance to lampoon them.
“The mob takes the Fifth,” Trump said, according to AP News. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
Perhaps Trump should ask the same question to Cohen.