Judge sees 'gaping holes' in Trump lawyer bid to delay Stormy Daniels lawsuit

LOS ANGELES, April 20 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday signaled possible shortcomings in a request by Donald Trump's personal lawyer to delay adult-film actress Stormy Daniels' lawsuit over her alleged affair with the U.S. president, but stopped short of putting it on hold.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued last month to end a non-disclosure agreement related to a $130,000 payment she received from the lawyer, Michael Cohen, before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, to keep quiet about her alleged relationship with Trump a decade earlier.

At a hearing in Los Angeles federal court, U.S. District Judge James Otero said he needed more time to review Cohen's and Trump's request to put Daniels' case on hold for 90 days.

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Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels hush payment scandal
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Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels hush payment scandal
Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels speaks to the media outside US Federal Court on April 16, 2018, in Lower Manhattan, New York. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months over his business dealings, and FBI agents last week raided his home, hotel room, office, a safety deposit box and seized two cellphones. Some of the documents reportedly relate to payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims a one-night stand with Trump a decade ago, and ex Playboy model Karen McDougal who also claims an affair. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Michael Avenatti, lawyer for adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, leaves federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Michael Cohen's attorney Todd Harrison arrives at federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen (centre) leaves federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid
Adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels speaks to media along with lawyer Michael Avenatti (R) outside federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Michael Cohen's attorney Todd Harrison is pictured outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York City, New York, U.S., April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen exits a hotel in New York City, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, speaks to media along with lawyer Michael Avenatti (R) outside federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid
Attorney for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti is pictured though a window as he arrives at federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and attorney Michael Avenatti arrive at Federal Court in New York, U.S., on Monday, April 16, 2018. Daniels claims she had sex with Donald Trump in 2006 and took a $130,000 hush payment shortly before the 2016 election from lawyer Michael Cohen. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images
President Trumps lawyer Michael Cohen exits the US Federal Court on April 16, 2018, in Lower Manhattan, New York. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months over his business dealings, and FBI agents last week raided his home, hotel room, office, a safety deposit box and seized two cellphones. Some of the documents reportedly relate to payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims a one-night stand with Trump a decade ago, and ex Playboy model Karen McDougal who also claims an affair. / AFP PHOTO / EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, (C) also known as Stormy Daniels arrives for a court hearing at the US Courthouse in New York on April 16, 2018. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months over his business dealings, and FBI agents last week raided his home, hotel room, office, a safety deposit box and seized two cellphones. / AFP PHOTO / Hector RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Attorney for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti(C), arrives for a court hearing at the US Courthouse in New York on April 16, 2018. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months over his business dealings, and FBI agents last week raided his home, hotel room, office, a safety deposit box and seized two cellphones. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Michael Avenatti (R), attorney for Stormy Daniels, arrives for a court proceeding regarding the search warrants served on President Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, at the United States District Court Southern District of New York, April 13, 2018 in New York City. Cohen and his lawyers are asking the court to block Justice Department officials from reading documents and materials related to his relationship with President Donald Trump that they believe should be protected by attorney-client privilege. Officials with the FBI, armed with a search warrant, raided Cohen's office and two private residences earlier in the week. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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But the judge told Cohen's lawyer Brent Blakely that "there's some gaping holes" in the request for a stay.

That request followed the FBI's April 9 raids of Cohen's home, office and a hotel room, and seizure of several boxes of documents and electronic media on various subjects.

Federal prosecutors have been conducting a criminal probe of Cohen's business affairs, and lawyers for Trump and Cohen have said Daniels' civil lawsuit overlaps it.

They said letting her case proceed could both impair Cohen's constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, and make it harder for Trump to defend himself.

During Friday's hearing, Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti complained that Cohen presumably "knows where a lot of bodies are buried," and that the defense strategy has left his client "in a room of darkness" in a case of "critical importance" to the public.

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Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti
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Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 20: Michael Avenatti attends the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for MTV)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 20: Michael Avenatti attends the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for MTV)
Michael Avenatti, lawyer of adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. Avenatti discussed the allegations against President Donald Trump. Photographer: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 28: Michael Avenatti is seen on July 28, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by gotpap/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels, is pictured outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York City, New York, U.S., April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
Adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, speaks to media along with lawyer Michael Avenatti (R) outside federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid
Michael Avenatti (C), lawyer for adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, speaks to the media outside the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California after a hearing regarding Clifford's case against Donald J. Trump in Los Angeles, California, April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Michael Avenatti, lawyer for adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, leaves with a film crew film as he departs the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California after a hearing regarding Clifford's case against Donald J. Trump in Los Angeles, California, April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Michael Avenatti, lawyer for adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, speaks to the media outside the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California after a hearing regarding Clifford's case against Donald J. Trump in Los Angeles, California, April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti leaves federal court surrounded by news media in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2018.
Michael Avenatti (R), attorney for Stormy Daniels, is pictured outside the Manhattan Federal Court in New York City, New York, U.S., April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
THE VIEW - On Tuesday, April 17, Stormy Daniels sits down with the co-hosts of The View (11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. EDT) for her first live television interview. Daniels will be joined in studio by her attorney Michael Avenatti. 'The View' airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Heidi Gutman/ABC via Getty Images) JOY BEHAR, STORMY DANIELS, MICHAEL AVANETTI
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 16: Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti are seen outside federal court in downtown Manhattan on April 16, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 16: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti arrives at Federal Court for the hearing at the United States District Court Southern District of New York related to Michael Cohen, President Trump's longtime personal attorney and confidante, April 16, 2018 in New York City. Cohen and lawyers representing President Trump are asking the court to block Justice Department officials from reading documents and materials related to his Cohen's relationship with President Trump that they believe should be protected by attorney-client privilege. Officials with the FBI, armed with a search warrant, raided Cohen's office and two private residences last week. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)
Attorney for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti (R), arrives for a court hearing at the US Courthouse in New York on April 16, 2018. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months over his business dealings, and FBI agents last week raided his home, hotel room, office, a safety deposit box and seized two cellphones. / AFP PHOTO / Hector RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 12: Gayle King, Michael Avenatti, Don Lemon and Sean Hannity attend the 2018 The Hollywood Reporter's 35 Most Powerful People In Media at The Pool on April 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels, speaks to reporters following a court proceeding regarding the search warrants served on President Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, at the United States District Court Southern District of New York, April 13, 2018 in New York City. Cohen and his lawyers are asking the court to block Justice Department officials from reading documents and materials related to his relationship with President Donald Trump that they believe should be protected by attorney-client privilege. Officials with the FBI, armed with a search warrant, raided Cohen's office and two private residences earlier in the week. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
THE VIEW - Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti is the guest today, Monday, 3/26/18 on ABC's 'The View.' 'The View' airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Paula Lobo/ABC via Getty Images) MEGHAN MCCAIN, SARA HAINES, MICHAEL AVANATTI, JOY BEHAR, WHOOPI GOLDBERG, SUNNY HOSTIN
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Blakely countered by estimating that Avenatti has made 53 public appearances discussing Daniels' case.

"Quite frankly, I can't think of any situation they haven't talked," he said, drawing courtroom laughter.

Although Blakely suggested a 40-day stay might suffice, Otero said both sides remained far apart.

"We're almost like two ships passing in the night," he said.

The judge did not indicate when he will rule.

Daniels has said the non-disclosure agreement was void because Trump did not sign it, and that Cohen defamed her by insinuating publicly that she lied about having an intimate relationship with Trump.

Trump and Cohen have sought to force arbitration, where new details about Daniels' case would be shielded from the public.

After the hearing ended, Avenatti told reporters he was pleased with how it went.

"I very much look forward to placing Trump on the stand," Avenatti added.

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What Stormy Daniels has said about her affair with Trump
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What Stormy Daniels has said about her affair with Trump

She says: In Touch never paid her for her story

Daniels says she was never paid the $15,000 she was originally offered by In Touch for the story of her alleged affair with Trump.

She says: Her sexual encounter with Trump was consensual

Daniels had said during the "60 Minutes" interview that she didn't want to have sex with Trump – but when asked by Anderson Cooper if the encounter with Trump was consensual, the adult film star responded affirmatively, saying, "yes, yes."

She says: Trump's lawyer threatened her and her daughter

As she detailed the aftermath of the alleged affair, Stormy Daniels -- whose real name is Stephanie Clifford -- described a moment in a Las Vegas parking lot when a man threatened her:

"And a guy walked up on me and said to me, 'Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.' And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, 'That's a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom.' And then he was gone."

She says: Trump compared her to Ivanka

"He was like, 'Wow, you — you are special. You remind me of my daughter,'" Daniels told "60 Minutes." "You know — he was like, 'You're smart and beautiful, and a woman to be reckoned with, and I like you. I like you.'"

She says: Trump "brushed aside" his relationship with Melania

When asked by Anderson Cooper about Trump's marriage to Melania Trump, Daniels said Trump "brushed aside" any concern surrounding his marital vows. She said he spoke of his marriage to Daniels, saying:

"Oh yeah, yeah, you know, don’t worry about that. We don’t even—we have separate rooms and stuff."

She says: She spanked Trump with a magazine with Trump on the cover

Stormy Daniels confirmed in her "60 Minutes" interview the earlier report that she had spanked Trump with a magazine featuring himself on the cover.

She says: She was paid $130,000 in hush money

Michael Cohen has confirmed that he paid Stephanie Clifford $130,000 11 days before the 2016 election. A former chairman of the Federal Election Commission has since said this payment may have been illegal.

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(Reporting by Dana Feldman in Los Angeles; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Dan Grebler)

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