Judge 'probably not going to issue' Cohen requested gag order against Stormy Daniels' attorney
Michael Cohen wants to have Michael Avenatti muzzled, but a federal judge said Friday he’s not inclined to agree.
At a hearing in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero said he was aware Avenatti has called President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer a “moron” and a “screw-up” in public comments.
Still, the judge said he’s “probably not going to issue” the gag order requested by Cohen amid his ongoing legal war with Stormy Daniels, the porn star who claims she had sex with Trump in 2006.
“The irony of all this does not escape me,” Otero deadpanned after Avenatti, who represents Daniels, pointed out that President Trump and Rudy Giuliani have both also trash-talked Cohen in recent public comments.
“My court has to make sure it doesn’t make an order that chills First Amendment rights going forward. That’s the most sacred of rights,” Otero told Cohen’s lawyer Brent Blakely.
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In arguments Friday morning, Blakely called Avenatti’s public criticism of Cohen “unprecedented.” He said without an order prohibiting Avenatti from further public comments, Cohen would be deprived of his right to a fair trial.
“If there’s an expedited trial with (Daniels) asking for jurors, those jurors (could be) the people going up to my client on the street and saying, ‘You’re a horrible person. You’re going to jail for the rest of your life,’ ” Blakely said.
But the judge was unmoved
“I’m not sure you really appreciate the significance of the order you’re asking this court to issue,” Otero replied.
The judge then scolded Blakely for saying in a court brief that Avenatti was like a “small-town carnival magician” who attempts to confuse people by “pulling the First Amendment out of his tiny bag of tricks.”
“The Constitution is the highest law of the land,” Otero said. “It’s neither a trick nor an illusion.”
In his own argument Friday, Avenatti questioned why the gag order pursued by Cohen is limited to him when Giuliani, who’s now acting as one of Trump’s lawyers, went on CNN Thursday and called Cohen a “pathological liar.”
“In the unlikely event the court (issues the gag order), it should extend to Rudy Giuliani,” Avenatti argued.
The judge also heard arguments on Cohen’s request to extend his temporary freeze of the legal battle for another 90 days. He took both matters under submission and is expected to rule in the coming days.
Avenatti argued against the stay saying, “We need to get this show on the road.”
Daniels’ lawyer said his understanding of the criminal investigation now pending against Cohen in the Southern District of New York does not involve his client.
“My client has not received any subpoena,” he said in court. “I have reason to believe that investigation has nothing to do with the $130,000 payment to my client.”
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Cohen and Trump earlier this year to sidestep arbitration and invalidate the deal she signed to keep quiet about the alleged affair in exchange for the hush money.
Cohen brokered the deal using an alias for Trump. His New York residences and offices were raided in April as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Cohen won an initial 90-day stay in Daniels’ case by saying he would be forced to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if her lawsuit moved ahead.
Avenatti has relentlessly blasted Cohen in media interviews and on social media.
The lawyer dropped another bombshell Thursday night when he said he’s representing three more women who claim they were paid for their silence by President Trump’s team.
Speaking outside the court on Friday, Avenatti declined to identify the women.
“As soon as those clients green-light me to release information and details related to their respective cases, I will release that information, he said.
Avenatti said he felt confident the judge would deny the gag order.
“Americans deserve to know the truth about their elected leaders — what they knew, when they knew it and how they covered it up. And what you witnessed today was a continued effort by the President of the United States and Michael Cohen to silence me and to prevent the truth from being exposed,” he said.
Charles Harder, another of the President’s lawyers, attended the hearing Friday but declined to speak with the media.
Avenatti, meanwhile, said he’s not going to stop talking and tweeting about the case. He also took another swipe at Giuliani.
“This guy is an absolute train wreck of a lawyer,” he quipped to the Daily News. "In fact, I think he’s the best lawyer that we have working for us in the case.”