Leak fight nixes Stormy Daniels meet with feds in Cohen case
Stormy Daniels’ planned meeting with investigators Monday in the federal probe of President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney was abruptly canceled just hours before it was to start after an ugly, finger-pointing spat between prosecutors and the porn star’s lawyer over who tipped off the media to the sit-down.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was supposed to meet with prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan in preparation for a possible grand jury appearance as they work to assemble a case against Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
But after several news organizations, including The Associated Press, reported on the meeting, two prosecutors called Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, and told him that they were concerned about media attention in the case, he said.
Avenatti offered to move the meeting to another location and reiterated that Daniels — who he says has been cooperating with prosecutors for months — was ready to go forward with the meeting, but they called back to cancel it, he said. The meeting has not been rescheduled, he said.
Daniels has said she had sex with Trump in 2006 when he was married, which Trump has denied. As part of their investigation into Cohen, prosecutors have been examining the $130,000 payment that was made to Daniels as part of a confidentiality agreement days before the 2016 presidential election.
“We believe canceling the meeting because the press has now caught wind of it is ridiculous,” Avenatti wrote in an email to Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos. “We do not think it was any secret that at some point you were going to meet with my client.”
In response, Roos accused Avenatti of leaking the details of the meeting — an allegation that Avenatti said was “patently false” — and said it called into question Avenatti’s “commitment to maintaining the required confidentiality” of what is discussed in the meeting with Daniels.
“Such confidentiality is critical to the diligence, fairness, and integrity of this, and indeed all, investigations conducted by this Office,” Roos wrote. “This is not our preferred approach, and a step we are only rarely forced to take, but we are left with no choice.”
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan had declined to comment on the meeting earlier Sunday night and did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the cancellation.
Daniels is suing to invalidate the confidentiality agreement that prevents her from discussing the alleged relationship with Trump. She argues the nondisclosure agreement should be invalidated because Cohen, signed it, but the president did not.
Daniels and Avenatti have also turned over documents in response to a subpoena from federal prosecutors about the $130,000 that Daniels was paid, a person familiar with the matter said. The person wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Daniels was supposed to appear before a grand jury in New York on June 15, but the appearance was canceled after she voluntarily agreed to come in for the interview that had been scheduled for Monday, according to an email from Roos to Avenatti.
In April, FBI agents raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room as part of a probe into his business dealings and investigators were seeking records about the nondisclosure agreement that Daniels had signed, among other things.
Cohen had said he paid Daniels himself, through a limited liability company known as Essential Consultants, LLC, and that “neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.”
In May, Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s attorneys, said the president had repaid Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Daniels, contradicting Trump’s prior claims that he didn’t know the source of the money.
Earlier this month, Trump said he hadn’t spoken with Cohen — his longtime fixer and a key power player in the Trump Organization — in “a long time” and that Cohen is “not my lawyer anymore.”
The canceled interview with Daniels came as lawyers for Cohen said Monday that they’ve finished an attorney-client privilege review of over four million files seized in the raids, finding that over 12,061 files are disqualified for the privilege or because of “attorney-work product doctrine.”
Lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization have analyzed items seized in the raids since April 26.
The Trump Organization asked Saturday that the Wednesday deadline to finish making challenges be extended two weeks. Prosecutors on Monday opposed the request, saying further delay “will unreasonably impede the government’s investigation.” They added that any extension should not go beyond July 5.
Lucey reported from Washington.