Judge: Gag order unlikely against porn star’s lawyer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal judge said Friday he is unlikely to issue a gag order stopping a lawyer for porn actress Stormy Daniels from discussing her lawsuit against President Donald Trump with reporters and the public.
U.S. District Judge S. James Otero made the comment during a hearing held a day after the attorney, Michael Avenatti, said he now represents three additional women who had relationships with Trump and were paid “hush money” before the 2016 presidential election.
Otero did not immediately issue a decision on the gag order requested on behalf of Michael Cohen, a longtime personal lawyer for Trump. The motion said Avenatti had been running a “smear campaign” against Cohen.
His lawyer, Brent Blakely, argued that Avenatti’s frequent interviews and near-daily tweets about Trump and Cohen could taint future jurors.
“Like a small-town carnival magician who attempts to confuse the audience with smoke and mirrors, Avenatti attempts to somehow justify his conduct by pulling the First Amendment out of his tiny bag of tricks while at the same time pointing his finger at others,” Blakely wrote in requesting the order.
Otero said the constitution is “neither a trick nor an illusion” and told Blakely that his request was “serious business.”
The judge said he had some concerns about statements that Avenatti has made about Cohen, but said the bar for a gag order was high and it didn’t seem as though Cohen had met that burden. He did not immediately issue a decision on issuing the order.
The judge is also considering whether to continue delaying Daniels’ case because Cohen is under federal investigation in New York.
Avenatti disclosed that he had additional clients at a community forum in West Hollywood, but he would not provide additional details.
However, asked if he had evidence that the women had relationships with Trump, Avenatti said: “Yes.”
He said he was “not at liberty to share” the evidence because he didn’t have permission from his clients to disclose specifics. But Avenatti said the women, who contacted him months ago, were “paid hush money prior to the 2016 election.”
He called on Trump and Cohen to come forward and disclose information about the women and their supposed relationships with Trump.
“They should release the information to the American people now,” Avenatti said. “Enough with the games.”
Trump’s attorney, Charles Harder, would not comment when asked about the allegations on Friday.
Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, declined to comment Friday but cautioned against believing everything that a lawyer says in the heat of a legal battle.
“Mr. Avenatti is an aggressive attorney doing his job in the middle of litigation,” Davis said. “I have been there, done that. An attorney in litigation is just that, and until the litigation is over, I’m not going to comment on the words used.”
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had sex with Trump in 2006, when he was married, but Trump has denied it.
Days before the 2016 presidential election, she was paid $130,000 to stay silent in a deal handled by Cohen. She is suing to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement.
Daniels also sued Cohen last month, alleging he colluded with her former lawyer to get her to appear on Fox News and falsely deny a sexual tryst with Trump.
Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak in New York contributed to this report.