NEW YORK CITY—Stormy Daniels will finally come face-to-face with Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer and fixer for Donald Trump who paid her $130,000 in 2016 to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump, in a New York federal courtroom on Monday afternoon. In a CNN interview on Sunday, Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti revealed that Daniels will attend Cohen’s Monday hearing.
Daniels is suing Cohen and Trump to be released from that agreement that she not discuss the Trump matter, and is also suing Cohen for defamation, saying that statements he made dismissing her allegations about Trump as false were tantamount to denouncing her as a liar.
Avenatti denied, however, that Daniels’ attendance at Cohen’s hearing—a hearing where Cohen will try to block the government from looking at documents seized in raids on his offices a week ago—was a stunt intended to rattle Cohen.
"It's intending to send a message that this is a very, very serious matter for her, and she wants to make sure that the American people know that she's behind efforts to bring to light as much information and documents as possible," Avenatti said in the interview. "She wants to ensure that she is heard. This has nothing to do with getting into his head at all.”
Avenatti, who has repeatedly denounced Cohen in television interviews, will also be present in the federal courtroom, he said. But the in-person appearance will actually be the second time that the two bitter legal adversaries have encountered each other in public.
According to a report in The New York Post, the pair were seen dining at the same upscale Manhattan restaurant at some point in the weeks since it was revealed that Cohen paid off Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election.
“The foes sat with their own separate parties at the upscale Greek restaurant, Avra on Madison Ave.,” the New York tabloid reported, adding that Cohen and Avenatti “shook hands” and that their interaction was “not tense.”
But Avenatti has nonetheless attacked and ridiculed Cohen in public relentlessly in recent weeks, on Friday claiming on his Twitter account that Cohen “organized a protest” in Florida on Friday outside a strip club where Daniels was making a live appearance. “As usual, his execution was flawless,” Avenatti wrote, over a photo showing a mere four people attending the “protest,” bearing signs reading, “Stormys (sic) Weathered,” and “Over the Hill.”
Federal investigators reportedly seized documents detailing the hush money payoff to Daniels when they raided Cohen’s office, as well as his home and hotel room, on April 9. Cohen and Trump claim that those documents should not be examined by the investigators because they are covered by “attorney-client privilege.” Lawyers for Trump filed court papers over the weekend acknowledging that Trump is indeed the other person involved on those “privileged” communications.
However, before seizing the documents, the investigators would have needed to show evidence to convince a judge that the raid was necessary, and following the raid, the Justice Department must follow an elaborate procedure to ensure that no attorney-client privilege is violated.
In addition, lawyers and clients cannot generally claim a blanket attorney-client privilege for anything at all that they discuss, and discussions that could be designed to aid commission of criminal acts are also not protected, experts say.
Cohen is reportedly under investigation for bank fraud and other criminal charges, At the same time, the government has asserted in court documents that Cohen’s communications would not be protected because Cohen performs “little to no legal work.”