A federal judge in California put a temporary stop Thursday to efforts by Stormy Daniels’ attorney to depose President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen over a $130,000 payout from Cohen to the porn star before the 2016 election.
Judge S. James Otero of the US District Court for the Central District of California denied the motion for an expedited trial and discovery process, saying Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, was “premature” in making the motion because Trump and Essential Consultants LLC, the company established by Cohen to pay Daniels the $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair between her and Trump, have not yet filed a petition to compel arbitration, which they have stated they’re going to do.
In his decision, Otero admonished the parties, writing that “instant litigation is not the most important matter on the court’s docket.” He also vacated a hearing date previously set for April 30.
Avenatti told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer later Thursday that he does not view the ruling as a setback and is intent on waiting for Trump and Cohen “to file their motion to compel arbitration” before “immediately (refiling) our motion.”
“This does not bode well for the President or Mr. Cohen, and all indications are that when this motion is heard on the merits, we’re going to get the discovery and we’re going to get the trial we’ve asked for,” Avenatti said.
In the motion he filed earlier this week, Avenatti requested to depose both Trump and Cohen, who was added this week as a defendant in the lawsuit, for “no greater than two hours.”
The request also asked for “targeted requests for the production of documents directed to Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen on various topics relating to the hush agreement.”
Avenatti laid out questions he’d like answered, including whether Trump knew about the hush agreement and the scope of his involvement, where the payment came from, what Cohen’s role was, and whether Trump consented to the agreement and was involved in efforts to silence Daniels “to benefit his presidential campaign by preventing voters from hearing Plaintiff speak publicly.”
Cohen’s spokesman David Schwartz said in a statement that the motion was “frivolous, untimely and premature on its face.”
“I’m not at all surprised by the judge’s decision to deny the motion to compel depositions of Michael Cohen and Donald Trump,” Schwartz said. “This frivolous motion was denied with 48 hours of filing and I’m pleased it was denied.”
The motion is the latest in the legal battle between Daniels, an adult film actress whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and Cohen, Trump, and the limited liability company Cohen created to pay her to keep quiet about the alleged affair with Trump more than a decade ago.
Daniels said she was pressed to sign the document, and her legal team now says the agreement is invalid because it was never signed by Trump.
On Monday, Daniels’ legal team amended her lawsuit to include a defamation claim against Cohen. Daniels’ friend and fellow adult film actress Alana Evans, who has publicly tried to corroborate Daniels’ claims of an affair, also said she will file her own defamation claims by the end of the month.
Trump continues to deny that he had an affair with Daniels, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said Monday afternoon.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.