Lately, there has been a basketful of court appearances and lawsuits involving governmental entities, the President, and his friends. Trump’s friend, fixer and personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is under federal criminal investigation for his business dealings. He appeared in a New York federal court Monday afternoon (April 16) to discuss the suppression of his clients' names and evidence seized in an FBI raid on his home and offices earlier this month.

This was also the day the world learned that Cohen had only three clients—the President, a GOP fundraiser, and Sean Hannity of Fox News. After America and the entire media world recovered from the shock and awe, heavy speculation swirled around watercoolers about just what kind of business dealings he had with his three clients, especially the TV news host.

And, just as America got her bearings again, four days later, on Friday (April 20) Cohen was back in court, but this time in a California civil court.

Cohen and his legal team appeared before the judge to discuss their motion and argument for the now infamous Stephanie Clifford/ Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit.

The adult film actress came to the forefront of America’s news feed in March of 2018 when she and her attorney Michael Avenatti filed a suit against Michael Cohen and Donald Trump. The suit asks for Stormy to be released from a $130K non-disclosure agreement (NDA) she and Cohen signed just days before the 2016 presidential election.

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The NDA precludes Stormy from detailing an affair she had with Trump in 2006. Since the agreement was not signed by Trump, and only Cohen and Daniels, her legal team believes the contract should be nullified.

Caught up again

When arguments were presented to Judge James Otero, Cohen’s attorneys expressed deep concern that if their client spoke on the record about the Stormy matter, he could open himself up to incrimination.

And, this would lead to an indictment in the next 90 days in the federal criminal case.

CNN reported that Cohen’s attorneys asked for a stay of proceedings, asserting that it was “imperative” that the case is delayed until their team has had time to sort through the materials the government seized in the raid. This way, they would be able to see what the government has on their client and they would know how to proceed without the possibility of their client incriminating himself.

It’s for these reasons that Cohen’s counsel argued that the civil case should wait. Avenatti disagreed and said the cases could indeed co-exist. And then, just like Cohen's other court session a week prior, it all came to a halt.

Darned if you do

Most of the discussion in court on Friday (April 20) was about whether or not Cohen would plead the Fifth. One portion of the Fifth Amendment, as outlined in the US Constitution, states that a person cannot be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.

This affects the civil case because it is tied to the federal case. So the slippery strategy-slope that Cohen is skiing on is a huge 'mountain of if' or a Hail Mary pardon.

The first concern is, if Cohen is deposed and takes the Fifth he removes the possibility of self-incrimination. This would also remove some worry considering he and his legal team don’t know what the prosecutors have in the federal case. However, this invites another problem.

According to CNN legal experts, in civil cases, unlike federal cases, if a defendant pleads the Fifth and a jury is involved, the jury is allowed to make a "negative inference" of guilt which would be devastating for Cohen. His fate could then be in the hands of Californians. The President could also be deposed which would open yet another can of worms considering the President has publicly denied the affair and knowing about the $130K payment.

The $1,000,000 question answered

So if Michael Cohen won’t answer any questions on the record then why didn't he file a public declaration to assert his Fifth Amendment rights? This was also the question of the judge and the plaintiff's counsel. According to Avenatti, in a public statement outside of the courthouse, the judge said Cohen’s motion had “gaping holes” because it lacked a declaration.

The judge, being a fair judge without fear or favor, has given Cohen until Wednesday, April 25 to file a declaration and state what he intends to do in regard to the Stormy case. Cohen’s attorneys said that their client would comply with the request and deadline.

The judge will then rule whether the proceeding will be delayed or move forward. If it is delayed, the case could be put on hold anywhere from one to three months.

A rock and a very hard place

Jay Goldberg, one of Trump’s former attorneys, told CNN and the Wall Street Journal that Cohen is "weak" and advised Trump to not trust that Cohen will take the fall for him. That advice must've had an effect on Trump because the New York Times reported that the Trump team is now resigned to the possibility that Cohen may turn on the President.

They also reported that another one of Trump's supporters, Roger Stone, went on the record saying that Donald Trump treats Cohen "like garbage" and echoed similar advisement. He too predicted that Cohen would tell all if he is faced with prison time.

Speculators and CNN legal experts have also weighed in saying that since Cohen has a wife, kids, mounting legal fees, and potentially staring at criminal charges, the inevitability of spilled beans is not too far off.

So what will the President do? After all, he has to save himself too and his presidency that hangs in the balance of a Russia probe. And what about Cohen? Will he unveil the truth about Trump and turn on the man he said he'd take a bullet for?

As the minutes tick away on the clock, the POTUS and his fixer will both have to make a decision. Regardless of who ends up the sacrificial lamb, the whole situation is bad.

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