Trump Spared From Stormy ‘Hush’ Deal Fight But Peril Lingers
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump finally escaped his legal battle with Stephanie Clifford after a judge put to rest her lawsuit seeking to void a $130,000 “hush” agreement over a purported fling.
It wasn’t a big surprise as the president had agreed six months ago not to enforce the deal to keep the pornographic actress known as Stormy Daniels quiet. It’s Trump’s second win in the headline-grabbing litigation with Clifford after the same Los Angeles federal judge threw out her defamation lawsuit last year and ordered her to pay $293,000 for Trump’s legal expenses.
But the controversial non-disclosure agreement still poses legal peril for the president and his inner circle.
Trump’s former fixer and lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified to a congressional committee last month that Trump Organization official Allen Weisselberg was present when Trump directed him to pay the hush money in the days before the election and said Trump personally reimbursed him. Cohen provided the House Oversight and Reform Committee with a copy of a check that he said Trump wrote to him. That could lead to Trump to being accused of campaign finance violations. The president has denied wrongdoing.
Trump argued that after Clifford spilled the beans on their alleged 2006 tryst in a tell-all book, it made no sense for them to keep sparring in court over the agreement she made before the 2016 election not to talk about it. The company created by Cohen to facilitate the payment, which initially said she faced more than $20 million in damages for talking, later said that it wouldn’t sue to enforce the deal.
Clifford has conducted herself as if the agreement was already void by discussing the alleged encounter on television and in her book “Full Disclosure,” according to Trump’s October request to dismiss the claim.
Clifford had argued that she should be allowed to continue the lawsuit because Trump had been deceiving the court and the American public.
"Having spent months threatening to make Ms. Clifford pay millions of dollars for breach of the terms of the non-disclosure and settlement agreement at issue here in an attempt to intimidate her into silence, defendants cannot now simply walk away and claim that the agreement was never a binding contract to begin with,” she said in a court filing last year.
Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, hailed Thursday’s ruling as a vindication.
“The court found that Ms. Daniels received everything she asked for by way of the lawsuit -- she won,” Avenatti said.
The case is Clifford v. Trump, 2:18-cv-02217, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).
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