Trump's Hush-Money Talk Leads Daniels's Lawyer to Push Suit
(Bloomberg) -- Adult film star Stormy Daniels said President Donald Trump’s sudden acknowledgment of her 2016 hush agreement means that a judge’s hold on her lawsuit to void the deal can be lifted.
Trump’s admission that he knew about the pact shows there’s no need to question his lawyer, Michael Cohen, whose home and office were raided by FBI agents in a New York criminal probe, the actress’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, said Thursday in a filing in Los Angeles federal court. Cohen and Trump secured the 90-day delay by arguing the criminal investigation could overlap with the hush-payment case and that Cohen’s rights against self-incrimination would be violated if he were questioned in the Daniels suit.
But Avenatti said Thursday he’d only pursue a deposition of Trump.
"Mr. Trump’s newfound voice on facts concerning this lawsuit demonstrates he will be able to testify in his defense," he said.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, signed the agreement in October 2016 and said it was intended to silence her about a sexual encounter she had with Trump more than a decade ago. Trump has denied having sex with the porn star.
When the stay was issued on April 27, the California judge wasn’t aware of Trump’s statements a day earlier on Fox News, where the president said the criminal investigation in New York had nothing to do with the hush-agreement case, according to Avenatti’s filing. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, also asserted Cohen’s innocence on May 2, telling Fox’s Sean Hannity that Trump was aware of the agreement and repaid Cohen for the "perfectly legal" hush payment.
Avenatti also said Thursday that the delay is unfair to Clifford because it has given Trump time to post "incendiary tweets" about the case to his 52 million followers, including claims that Clifford’s assertions are "false and extortionist" and that he’d sue her for $20 million.
"The only way to fully escape the cloud of millions of dollars of alleged damages and liability, would be to allow the lawsuit to proceed and to have the settlement agreement declared null and void," Avenatti said.
Avenatti also cited comments by Trump and Giuliani that the criminal investigation in New York pertains only to Cohen’s "businesses" and that the nondisclosure payment to Clifford, just a month before the election, "did not result in campaign violations," as some legal experts have speculated.
"The new developments in the case make it clear that less drastic measures than a complete stay of all proceedings are available," Avenatti said.
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