“During the corresponding raids, the FBI seized various electronic devices and documents in my possession, which contain information relating to the $130,000 payment to Plaintiff Stephanie Clifford at the center of this case, and my communications with counsel, Brent Blakely, relating to this action,” said Cohen in a court filing that took place on Wednesday.
“Based upon the advice of counsel, I will assert my 5th amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.”
Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti, tweeted in response to this court filing by Cohen, which he deemed “a stunning development.”
“This is a stunning development. Never before in our nation’s history has the attorney for the sitting President invoked the 5th Amend in connection with issues surrounding the President. It is esp. stunning seeing as MC served as the “fixer” for Mr. Trump for over 10 yrs.”
Also, on the CNN program Erin Burnett OutFront, Avenatti was quoted discussing the case, along with the latest court filing by Cohen.
Avenatti explained, “The fact finder — whether it be a jury or a judge — can find what is called a negative inference and what that means is that you can presume that if the witness answered the question instead of invoking his Fifth Amendment right that the answer would incriminate him that it would not be positive for him or her and that’s a very serious matter.”
On Wednesday after Cohen’s filing, a former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks, stated that while this invoking of the Fifth Amendment rights, was acceptable for Cohen, the President could not take the same route.
Wine-Banks who formerly also served as the US Army’s General Counsel stated that “He cannot take the Fifth Amendment, that would be political suicide.”
“Michael Cohen can take the Fifth Amendment,” declared Wine-Banks. “But the President of the United States cannot say, ‘I can’t answer questions because they might incriminate me in another matter.’ That just is not politically acceptable.”
The reason behind Wine-Banks’s declaration was her belief that Trump also pleads the Fifth. However, it “would be complete chaos in the Congress if the President said, ‘I’m not answering questions because they would incriminate me.’”
Wine-banks believes that “it’s probably related to business transactions that skirt the line.”
“There were probably payments that might be considered bribes, in connection with some of the housing that’s been built in New York and maybe even overseas,” she said.
Nonetheless, there still are chances that the President might not plead the Fifth. During the 2016 Presidential Election, Trump called out Hillary Clinton when she pled the fifth during a Congressional hearing. “The mob takes the Fifth,” Trump had said at a campaign rally. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”