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.
“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: