But the libel suits were more than just time-consuming. The one that Cohen filed against BuzzFeed, in particular, could have weakened Trump's position in the Daniels case, even though the two matters are ostensibly unrelated.
Cohen alleged that BuzzFeed defamed him by publishing the full text of documents in a dossier compiled during the 2016 presidential race by Fusion GPS, which conducted opposition research against Trump. There is no mention of Daniels in the dossier, but the documents' author, former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, describes other alleged efforts by Cohen to hide information that could have hurt Trump's campaign.
As part of its defense in the libel suit, BuzzFeed sought to establish that Cohen — described by his own attorney as Trump's “fixer” — has a history of covering up unflattering information about Trump. Establishing such a pattern might have helped BuzzFeed argue that the dossier's claims about Cohen seemed plausible.
Plausibility might not be enough to justify publication, in the eyes of journalists who criticized BuzzFeed's decision to post the entire dossier online, but it probably would have been enough to beat Cohen in court. Cohen would have had to prove that BuzzFeed knowingly published false information about him or showed reckless disregard for the truth.
For BuzzFeed, Cohen's $130,000 payment to silence Daniels represented a useful example of his attempts to suppress negative information about Trump. So, in March, BuzzFeed's lawyers sent a letter to Daniels's lawyer, asking that she preserve records related to the negotiation with Cohen — a request that could have been a precursor to a subpoena.
A subpoena in the BuzzFeed case could have enabled Daniels to escape the non-disclosure agreement — which is her goal — through a loophole. The agreement states that Daniels “shall be permitted to disclose confidential information to another person or entity only if compelled to do so by valid legal process, including without limitation a subpoena … or similar legal compulsion.”
The agreement requires Daniels to try to fight such a subpoena and to give Trump an opportunity to intervene. But the bottom line is that Cohen's libel suit against BuzzFeed created a risk: Daniels might have been forced to turn over documents that Cohen and Trump want to keep out of public view. Cohen eliminated the risk by dropping the suit.