Stormy Daniels Sues Trump

Adult film star Stormy Daniels has filed a lawsuit against the President, handing the already beleaguered White House yet another headache.

Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as the adult film star Stormy Daniels, has filed a lawsuit against President Trump and is basically now acknowledging that she did indeed have an affair with Trump some twelve years ago when his current wife was pregnant with Trump’s youngest son:

Donald J. Trump never signed the nondisclosure agreement lawyers had presented in 2016 to a pornographic-film actress, rendering it null and void, according to a lawsuit filed on Tuesday by a lawyer for the actress.

The filing, in Los Angeles Superior Court, represents the latest development in a legal battle involving Mr. Trump, his longtime personal lawyer and the actress, Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels.

The lawsuit came days after Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, had legally pressured Ms. Clifford, initiating arbitration proceedings against her in Los Angeles in efforts to prevent her from speaking out about an affair she said she had with Mr. Trump, according to the complaint.

The suit, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, alleges that Mr. Trump “purposely did not sign the agreement so he could later, if need be, publicly disavow any knowledge of the Hush Agreement and Ms. Clifford.”

Despite not having a nondisclosure agreement in place, the lawsuit says Mr. Cohen proceeded to wire $130,000 to a trust account held by a lawyer for Ms. Clifford. The court documents filed on Tuesday do not make clear when that payment was made.

The lawsuit asks the judge to formally declare that either no agreement was formed, or that, to the extent an agreement was formed, it is invalid.

“We fully intend on bringing as much sunlight to this matter as possible,” said Michael J. Avenatti, a lawyer representing Ms. Clifford in the suit.

Mr. Cohen did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment. The White House also did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Last month, Mr. Cohen said that he had paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to Ms. Clifford, and that he had not been reimbursed by the Trump Organization or the campaign.

“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Mr. Cohen said in a statement at the time. “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”

He declined to answer several follow-up questions, including whether Mr. Trump had been aware that Mr. Cohen made the payment, why he made the payment or whether he had made similar payments to other people.

Mr. Cohen has previously said that Mr. Trump has denied an affair with Ms. Clifford. She has said the affair took place soon after Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, gave birth to the couple’s son, Barron. Tuesday’s lawsuit reiterated that timeline, saying Ms. Clifford and Mr. Trump began an “intimate relationship” in the summer of 2006; the relationship continued “well into” 2007, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit filed on Tuesday also made public for the first time the onerous terms of the full two-part contract, which Ms. Clifford signed on Oct. 28, 2016 — days before the presidential election. The agreement required Ms. Clifford to pay at least $1 million should she violate it, and to resolve any disputes related to the contract through binding confidential arbitration. The lines for the signatures of David Dennison — a pseudonym for Mr. Trump, according to the complaint — were blank on the copies of the contracts attached to the court filing.

More from The Washington Post:

Stormy Daniels, the porn star who says she was paid to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Donald Trump, sued the president Tuesday, asking the court to declare that her nondisclosure agreement before the 2016 election is void because Trump did not sign it.

In the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — said she had wanted to go public with the story of her alleged decade-old affair with Trump in the weeks leading up to the election. The lawsuit was first reported by NBC News.

Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, and Daniels’s attorney at the time, Keith Davidson, negotiated what the lawsuit calls a “hush agreement” in which she would be paid $130,000. After delays and even a cancellation of the contract by Daniels on Oct. 17, the payment arrived on Oct. 27, 12 days before the election, according to emails reviewed by The Washington Post.  Cohen said recently that he had used his own money to “facilitate” the payment.

The lawsuit suggests that Trump was aware of the agreement and that the money was intended to influence the election’s outcome. That intimation bolsters two complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission that say the payment violated election law because it was not reported as an in-kind campaign donation.

The lawsuit says: ”Mr. Trump, with the assistance of his attorney, Mr. Cohen, aggressively sought to silence Ms. Clifford as part of an effort to avoid her telling the truth, thus helping to ensure he won the presidential election.”

Cohen has previously denied that the payment breached campaign finance law. But the lawsuit raises new accusations against Cohen, saying that “through intimidation and coercive tactics,” he caused Daniels this year to sign a statement denying the affair. The suit says Cohen has continued to try to “intimidate” Daniels into keeping quiet in recent weeks as reports about the deal and Daniels’s relationship with Trump have leaked out and Daniels has given television interviews.

Cohen did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment. Davidson, the attorney who negotiated the deal for Daniels, declined to comment.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening. A spokesman for the Trump campaign, Michael Glassner, declined to comment.

Gina Rodriguez, who has represented Daniels, referred all questions about the suit to Daniels’s new attorney, Michael Avenatti. He said in an email: ”A Supreme Court Justice once said that ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant.’ And we fully intend on bringing as much sunlight to this matter as possible. Let the chips fall where they may.”

In the complaint, filed under Daniels’s real name — Clifford — the court is asked to declare the deal with Trump invalid and unenforceable, and it says Trump deliberately did not sign it so that he could later disavow knowledge of it.

A person familiar with the deal said it required the signature of Cohen or Trump, but not both. The person described as “buyer’s remorse” Daniels’s decision to sue 16 months after she was paid.

(…)

“Somebody should ask the president and Mr. Cohen the following very simple questions: First, did Mr. Trump sign the agreement? And second, did he know about the payment and the agreement?” said Avenatti, reached by phone Tuesday evening. “These are very simple questions. The answers should likewise be very simple. The ramifications of the answers are significant.”

Karen Tynan, an attorney for the adult entertainment industry, described the suit as a smart move, avoiding the possibility of private arbitration.

“Stormy has got time to amend the complaint and add more causes of action in the next few weeks,” Tynan said in a message. ”This is absolutely and unequivocally not a good development for Michael Cohen or the president.”

The lawsuit also includes a copy of the agreement that Daniels signed in October 2016 which was the basis for the $130,000 she was to receive from Michael Cohen, a longtime Trump attorney, employee and confident who says he negotiated the agreement on his own and made the payment out of his own funds without any expectation that Trump would reimburse him.

At this point, the details of the story between Trump and Clifford/Daniels are fairly well-known, and likely would be the top news story right now regarding the President were it not for everything else going on around him at this point.  This all began back in January when the London tabloid the Daily Mail and other similar publications began running reports that alleged that President Trump had an affair with a porn star who professionally goes by the name Stormy Daniels while his wife Melania was pregnant with Trump’s third son Barron Trump. Although the story began in media outlets that have proven to be less than trustworthy in the past, it quickly spread into the mainstream media for what seem like obvious reasons. The claims received wider attention when an American supermarket tabloid printed an interview with Daniels that it had spiked back in 2011. (You can read that report at the link if you like.) Outside of the salacious aspects of that report, the allegations began to receive more mainstream coverage when it was reported that Daniels was paid roughly $130,000 in October 2016 to keep silent about the matter. While neither party would initially confirm these reports about a payment, Daniels proceeded to go on a publicity tour that included appearances on late night television where she refused to answer questions but left viewers with the impression that there was at least some truth to the story. Based on Daniels’ lack of commentary, many people speculated that she was at least confirming that there had been a payment and that she was prohibited from commenting publicly due to the terms of a settlement agreement of some kind that included a non-disclosure agreement. 4

While the salacious side of the story no doubt was responsible for much of the interest on the part of the media and the public, the potentially more consequential issue revolves around the payment that was made. Initial reporting by CNN and other outlets revealed that the alleged payment to Daniels was made through a shell company that was set up in Delaware in October 2016, giving a mailing address that is apparently a nondescript office building there, and which apparently has never conducted business of any kind. The only reason to do something like this, of course, is to hide the true source of any money that might pass through the business entity. In mid-February, Trump’s long time attorney and associate Michael Cohen acknowledged that he had established the aforementioned limited liability company, negotiated the agreement with Clifford/Daniels, and made the payment(s) required under the agreement, allegedly out of his own pocket without any expectation of reimbursement. Since that acknowledgment, a complaint regarding the payment has been filed by Common Cause alleging that the the payment was an illegal “in kind” payment to the Trump campaign that was clearly intended to benefit the candidate and was not properly reported. Additionally, we”ve learned that the payment to Daniels was reported to the Treasury Department as “suspicious” by at least one American bank and that Cohen has reportedly been complaining to confidants since the payment was made that Trump never offered to reimburse him for the payment. Cohen is also under investigation by the New York State Bar for ethical violations in connection with the alleged payment, and there have been suggestions that he may have exposed Trump to potential criminal and civil liability based on his public statements.

As I noted when this story first became public, there are a series of questions raised by this case:

  • (1) Was Cohen reimbursed for paying Daniels for her silence, either directly or indirectly?
  • (2) How did Cohen document the payment?
  • (3) What were the terms of the Settlement Agreement?
  • (4) Did Daniels report the payment on her taxes as income? If so, how?
  • (5) What were the terms of any Settlement Agreement that Daniels may have signed?
  • (6) What did the President know and when did he know it?o

Thanks to the news reports that have come out since that post, we know the answers to at least some of these questions. As I nted above, Cohen has acknowledged that he was not reimbursed for this payment, and has apparently complained to friends about that. We don’t know how Cohen documented the payment outside of the terms of the agreement with Clifford/Daniels, but it is apparent that he did not report the payment to the Federal Election Commission as he theoretically should have done. The terms of the agreement between Clifford/Daniels and Cohen/Trump are set forth in the agreement itself, which has been attached as an exhibit to the Complaint I have embedded below. What we don’t know is how involved the President was in all of this and whether he knew that his longtime aide and attorney was paying for the silence of someone who could have revealed damaging information on the eve of the 2016 election. The answer to those questions could prove to be quite interesting.

As many observers have noted, in any other White House a lawsuit and story like this would be the lead story for weeks to come. With this White House and this President, it’s just another thing to add to the bonfire that has become the Trump Presidency. No wonder people like Gary Cohn are jumping ship.

Here’s the Complaint:

Stephanie Clifford v. Donald Trump Et Al by Doug Mataconis on Scribd

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    The heir to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and FDR has a porn name: David Dennison.

    MAGA!




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  2. teve tory says:

    “Images and/or property”…”Intellectual Property”

    In other words, she’s got sexts and dick pics from Trump.

    On the plus side, at least Trump’s not bringing shame to the office, like by wearing a tan suit or wanting fancy mustard or some such.




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  3. teve tory says:

    So Stormy’s pseudonym was Peggy Peterson.

    “P. P.”

    noted without comment.




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  4. Kathy says:

    Any Evangelicals still supporting Trump had better swear off all mirrors right now, for their own sanity.




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  5. CSK says:

    @Kathy:

    My impression is that the holy roller crowd is simply denying that this took place.




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  6. Kathy says:

    @CSK: I can see how they would think so. After all, it’s very common to set up shell companies and involve uninterested third parties in financial transactions of dubious origin.




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  7. teve tory says:

    who among us hasn’t stiffed our lawyer who paid off the porn star we cheated on our new wife with?




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  8. CSK says:

    @Kathy:

    Oh, absolutely. I often do it myself.




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  9. inhumans99 says:

    The funniest and saddest part of this story is the bit where Michael Cohen expected to be paid back by President Trump. If I were not at work right now I would be rolling on the floor laughing my butt off…poor guy.

    I also feel a genuine twinge of sympathy for Melania…being cheated on is bad enough but while you are pregnant is beyond the pale and with a porn star to boot. The party of family values indeed.




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  10. CSK says:

    Melania’s pretty much admitted that she married Trump for his money, and he’s said that he married her because he wanted other men to weep with envy when he walked into a room with her on his arm. He also predicted, back in the year they were married, that “of course” the marriage wouldn’t last.

    She probably isn’t enjoying the current public humiliation. But…she is a golddigger, and she knew what she was getting into, so it’s difficult to have much sympathy.




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  11. CSK says:

    Sarah Sanders’s response to this is that Trump already won against Daniels in arbitration.




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  12. Kathy says:

    @teve tory: Won’t the GOP be proud to own the first presidential sex tape.

    There won’t ever be another first.

    Ever.




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  13. gVOR08 says:

    Good to see this post, Doug. After all those years of James posting infrequently, I was starting to worry that in all the site updates James had fired you.

    More seriously, good to see you posting more often, James.




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  14. SenyorDave says:

    @Kathy: After all, it’s very common to set up shell companies and involve uninterested third parties in financial transactions of dubious origin.

    I think one of the Federalist papers actually covered the procedures involved. After all, the Founders certainly must have anticipated that the country would elect a person like Trump to the presidency.




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  15. Gustopher says:

    For the love of God, decency and our collective sense of revulsion, I desperately hope Donald Trump just pays some more hush money so we don’t have to learn the details of how Trump humps.

    It’s bad enough that we have a president who can be blackmailed, we don’t need the details.




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  16. grumpy realist says:

    Doug, the funniest argument I’ve heard so far vis-a-vis this NDA is that it’s in fact binding even though Trump didn’t sign it because the lawyer did and he was acting as Trump’s agent.

    (Um, wouldn’t the fact that there was a separate signature line for Trump (under his silly alias) which was not signed blow that argument out of the water?)




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  17. Kathy says:

    @SenyorDave:

    Reembolso José Ramón Aquique

    as I understand it, if the Electoral College worked the way the Founders intended, we’d either have a president Pence or Kasich by now, not the walking embarrassment currently making his best to diminish America’s stature.




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  18. Bill says:

    Film Critic John Simon writing of some actress around 40 years ago (I think Melanie Griffith in ‘One on One’) said ‘she has one true talent or two depending on how you count them.’ Ms. Clifford seems to meet that description also.




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  19. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    as I understand it, if the Electoral College worked the way the Founders intended, we’d either have a president Pence or Kasich by now

    If the EC worked the way the Founders intended, there would be no political parties, and the electors would be chosen by state legislatures rather than individual voters. Pence and Kasich are fundamentally products of a party-based system that would have baffled the Founders at the time of ratification.




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  20. Jay L Gischer says:

    I’ve heard it speculated elsewhere that Cohen breached the agreement when he admitted it existed, which renders the whole thing null and void. Isn’t that what the suit alleges? Somebody want to offer an opinion on this, which seems a stronger claim to me than the missing signature claim.




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  21. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    @CSK: That Sanders response is rather interesting, in that it can’t be true that the affair never happened (as Trump has repeatedly said, directly and through Sanders), AND that Trump won in arbitration. If nothing happened, there wouldn’t be anything to arbitrate. She probably just mis-spoke and meant to say Cohen won in arbitration, but I have a feeling that little gem will come back to bite.




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  22. Mister Bluster says:

    Margaret White: [referring to Carrie’s prom gown] Red. I might have known it would be red.
    Carrie: It’s pink, Mama.
    [presenting her corsage]
    Carrie: Look what Tommy gave me, Mama. Aren’t they beautiful?
    Margaret White: I can see your dirty pillows. Everyone will.
    Carrie: Breasts, Mama. They’re called breasts, and every woman has them.

    Carrie (1976)
    Dir. Brian De Palma




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  23. CSK says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:

    Yep.

    I also recall Cohen saying at one point that Trump never had an affair with Daniels, but that he (Cohen) paid her off to prevent her from saying she did.




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  24. @gVOR08:

    I’d been offline (except for mobile access, of course) since Sunday due to technology-related issues. Back up and running now. I actually tried writing a post or two using my tablet but it proved to be a bit too frustrating and time-consuming.




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  25. grumpy realist says:

    @Jay L Gischer: The scuttlebutt is that NEITHER the attorney nor Trump signed the form, which blows the “agency” argument out of the water, methinks. It looks like there’s only the cash payment.




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  26. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Henceforth; President David “textbook generic sex” Dennison. Or, if you like, Donnie Dennison.
    The signature issue seems like a reach to me.
    That Cohen talked about the agreement seems to render it void.
    Apparently Cohen got a “gag” order issued against Daniels last week. Pun intended, and relished.
    Daniels is going to make a shit-ton of money once this NDA is declared void.
    Ridiculing thin-skinned Donnie Dennison over this is the way to really get to him. If I had any kind of platform…I would be unrelenting. Where is Jon Stewart when we really need him?!?!?
    Team Dennison has so mis-handled this that it’s hard to see how they could manage to collude with Russia…but it certainly is easy to see how Russia could manipulate these fools like little puppet-boys.




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  27. CSK says:

    Trump is reportedly very, very unhappy with Sanders for making that arbitration comment, because it ties him in directly to that NDA.

    And..if they were going to give Trump a porn name, why didn’t they just call him “Donny Wadd” and be done with it.




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  28. pylon says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    I’m not so sure the signature is as much of a reach as others think. If Cohen agreed to the deal as Trump’s agent, he should have signed it (and not just as to form). Certainly the payment acceptance indicates part performance, which may or may not mean agreement with each and every one of the terms of the written agreement. The problem with that argument is that the payment was made prior to the date of the agreement, so how could acceptance mean agreement of terms that were not specified at the time (although drafts may have been exchanged).




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  29. CSK says:

    What does Daniels have on Trump that’s making him so eager to muzzle her? He survived the Pussy Tape. Every disgusting thing he’s said or done has just enhanced him in the eyes of his fan club members. Even if she has pix of that raddled, flabby, obese tangerine carcass, he could just say “that’s not me” and the cultists would believe him.

    It must be something yuuuuge. So to speak.




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  30. Grewgills says:

    @CSK:

    It must be something yuuuuge. So to speak.

    The order blocks release of texts and pictures, so I’m thinking his reticence is over something quite the opposite.




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  31. CSK says:

    @Grewgills:

    Much like Illma Gore’s rendering of a nude and tragically underendowed Trump, only worse.




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