WASHINGTON — The attorney for Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels, says he believes she’s “free to talk” about her relationship with Donald Trump. She filed a lawsuit against Trump to declare a $130,000 pre-election “hush” agreement null and void.
“Mr. Trump did not sign. We believe that that was so that he could later claim deniability, and therefore, from a legal perspective, we believe she’s free to talk,” Michael Avenatti, Clifford’s attorney, said on NBC’s “Today,” adding that his client “may have to” return the money if they win in court.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. It claims that the line for Trump’s signature, to be made under a pseudonym, David Dennison, is left blank. Clifford also signed under a different name, Peggy Peterson.
The agreement was entered into on Oct. 28, 2016, the week before the election, according to the lawsuit, which Avenatti’s firm posted online.
Cohen did not immediately respond to a request for comment. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday, “We’ve addressed our feelings on that situation, and I don’t have anything else to add.”
Sanders later said that “the president has denied the allegations against him.”
In January, the Wall Street Journal first reported that Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney, arranged a $130,000 payment to Clifford to not discuss the alleged affair. But In Touch magazine then published an interview with Clifford, conducted in 2011, where she provided some of the details.
She also denied an affair with Trump in a statement, saying it “never happened,” and in an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
But her lawsuit claims that she and Trump had an “intimate relationship” starting in 2006 and going into 2007. It claims that Cohen created an LLC, Essential Consultants, to hide “the true source of funds” to pay her. It also claims that Cohen, “through intimidation and coercive tactics,” forced Clifford into signing a “false statement” in which she claimed that reports of an affair were false.
“I think once my client is able to sit down and describe exactly what happened and the circumstances around it, the people of the United States and the world will know exactly why she signed it,” Avenatti said. Asked whether Clifford has photos and text messages and other evidence of a relationship with Trump, he declined to say, and said that Clifford would have to respond.
Asked whether Clifford would take money to tell her story, Avenatti said that he was not going to “make that representation. “I don’t think she’s determined ultimately what she is going to do. At this point, in light of the misinformation that Mr. Cohen has put out there to the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and others, I think it is time for her to tell her story and for the public to decide who is telling the truth.”
Cohen issued a statement to the New York Times in February in which he said he used his personal funds to make the payment. But Clifford, in her lawsuit, contends that he did this without her consent, evidence that Cohen’s position is that “no binding agreement is in place.” It also claims that Cohen “surreptitiously initiated” a “bogus arbitration proceeding” against Clifford late last month. Sanders said that the case had “already been won” in arbitration.
What’s still unclear is if Trump knew about the payment. “Not that I am aware of,” Sanders said at the briefing. Cohen told The New York Times that he made the payment out of his own pocket.
Update: The non-disclosure agreement had a clause in which any disputes would be resolved by an arbitrator. According to CNN, an arbitrator issued a ruling last week ordering Clifford to not talk.