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Judge puts Stormy Daniels case on hold for 90 days, citing likelihood Michael Cohen will be indicted

Adult-film actress Stormy Daniels made a statement outside a Manhattan federal court April 16. (Video: Reuters)

A federal judge on Friday granted Michael Cohen’s request for a delay in a lawsuit brought against him by porn star Stormy Daniels, saying it appeared likely Cohen will be indicted in a related criminal investigation.

Judge S. James Otero’s order for a 90-day stay comes two days after Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself in the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California. Cohen’s declaration cited the investigation by federal prosecutors in New York, who are examining his role in quashing embarrassing stories about Trump during the 2016 campaign, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Otero said Friday that the issues in the civil dispute with Daniels overlap with the criminal probe into Cohen. The lawyer’s Manhattan office and home were raided on April 9.

Here's how President Trump became embroiled in allegations that he had a sexual encounter with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

“This is no simple criminal investigation; it is an investigation into the personal attorney of a sitting President regarding documents that might be subject to the attorney client privilege,” Otero wrote. “Whether or not an indictment is forthcoming, and the Court thinks it likely based on these facts alone, these unique circumstances counsel in favor of stay.”

Daniels’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, said he planned to file an appeal early next week.

“While we certainly respect Judge Otero’s 90-day stay order based on Mr. Cohen’s pleading of the 5th, we do not agree with it,” he wrote on Twitter.

Cohen’s attorney, Brent Blakely, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Daniels, who says she had an affair with Trump  more than a decade ago, is seeking to void a deal she reached with Cohen days before the election under which she was paid $130,000 in exchange for her silence. Cohen has said he “facilitated” the payment using his own money from a home-equity line of credit.

Trump, who previously denied knowing anything about the $130,000 arranged by Cohen, acknowledged Cohen’s efforts on Thursday for the first time.

“Michael represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “And from what I’ve seen, he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this.”

Daniels’s suit, filed last month, named the president and Essential Consultants, a limited liability company Cohen created as a vehicle for the payment, as defendants. Daniels later added Cohen as a defendant.

It is not uncommon for defendants facing both civil liability and criminal prosecution to request a pause in civil proceedings to avoid giving sworn testimony and producing documents that could prove incriminating.