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Michael Cohen to plead the Fifth in Stormy Daniels suit

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Updated Apr 25, 2018 7:22 PM EDT

President Trump’s personal lawyer says he’ll use his Fifth Amendment rights in the lawsuit filed by adult film star Stephanie Clifford against him and Mr. Trump, citing the FBI’s ongoing criminal investigation into him. A person testifying can invoke the Fifth Amendment to protect against self-incrimination. 

Cohen, in a court declaration made to a California federal court Wednesday, cited the ongoing federal criminal investigation into him and FBI raids of his home, office and hotel room as the reason for his decision to plead the fifth. Cohen claimed that FBI officials “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.” Cohen said he made the decision at the advice of his counsel. 

Clifford, who also goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, alleges she had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump in 2006. She is suing over a nondisclosure agreement she signed in 2016, claiming it is invalid because Mr. Trump never signed it. Cohen has acknowledged paying Clifford $130,000 through a shell corporation, but Cohen said he paid out of his own pocket and Mr. Trump has claimed he was unaware of the payment.

“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 in a declaration executed on Wednesday. “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 two.”

Michael Avenatti, Clifford’s lawyer, called Cohen’s decision to plead the Fifth a “stunning development.”

Cohen has sought to take control of the evidence taken by the FBI, as CBS News has previously reported.

Mr. Trump has called the FBI raids on Cohen’s home and office a “disgrace” and an “attack on our country.”

Meanwhile, sources close to Cohen, as CBS News has reported, are concerned he might flip and turn on Mr. Trump, and sources have told CBS News Cohen expects to be charged in connection with the FBI raids in Manhattan.

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