Friday 27 April 2018

Porn star sues Trump lawyer for defamation

Stormy Daniels is suing Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen for defamation. Photo: AP
Stormy Daniels is suing Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen for defamation. Photo: AP

Justin Sink

Stormy Daniels added Donald Trump's personal lawyer as a defendant in her lawsuit against the US President, another fold in the legal morass stemming from her alleged affair with Mr Trump in 2006 and a subsequent agreement not to discuss the relationship.

Daniels, an adult actress whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, claimed on Monday that she was defamed by a statement Mr Trump's lawyer issued last month that made her sound like a liar.

Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen
Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen

In the statement, Michael Cohen said: "Just because something isn't true doesn't mean that it can't cause you harm or damage." The comments were in connection with the $130,000 (€104,000) he paid Ms Clifford in 2016 to keep quiet about the alleged relationship with Mr Trump. According to Ms Clifford, the statement harmed her reputation and exposed her to contempt, ridicule and shame.

The filing in the Superior Court of California followed a '60 Minutes' interview aired on Sunday night in which Ms Clifford described the encounter she had with Mr Trump more than 10 years ago. Raj Shah, a spokesman for the White House, said on Monday that Mr Trump strongly, clearly and consistently denied the underlying claims.

"The president doesn't believe any of the claims Ms Daniels made in the interview last night were accurate," Mr Shah said.

The television interview was the first time Ms Clifford explicitly confirmed the affair since receiving a $130,000 payment from Mr Cohen shortly before the 2016 election in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement.

The interview drew the highest ratings in 10 years for CBS's '60 Minutes', attracting 21.3 million viewers, according to ratings released by the network. Asked about the payment by Mr Cohen, Mr Shah said: "False charges are settled out of court all the time. This is nothing out of the ordinary."

Ms Clifford has sought to invalidate the agreement, in part because she says Mr Trump didn't sign it, and said her decision to speak out was driven by suggestions by the president's associates that she made up the story.

Ms Clifford's sometimes-graphic retelling of the alleged sexual incident largely echoed a 2011 interview with 'In Touch' magazine about the relationship. 'In Touch' didn't publish the interview after Mr Cohen threatened to sue the publication, '60 Minutes' reported.

She also said she had been intimidated to keep silent. Ms Clifford said that in 2011, after Mr Cohen's threat to sue 'In Touch', an unidentified man approached her in a car park before a gym class in Las Vegas and said it would be a shame for her daughter if something happened to Ms Clifford.

Mr Trump's representatives denied allegations of an affair during the presidential campaign, and earlier this year Daniels signed a statement denying any relationship, which was released by Mr Cohen.

In the '60 Minutes' interview, Ms Clifford said she signed the denial because she believed Mr Cohen would make her "life hell in many different ways".

Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for First Lady Melania Trump, appeared to allude to the allegations in a tweet on Sunday night.

"While I know the media is enjoying speculation and salacious gossip, I'd like to remind people there's a minor child whose name should be kept out of news stories when at all possible," she wrote.

The alleged affair between the future president and Ms Clifford occurred only months after the birth of Barron Trump.

Ms Clifford's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said on Monday that there was additional evidence to support Ms Clifford's claims. Ms Clifford herself declined to answer questions about whether she had any text messages or videos documenting the relationship.

"We're not going to get into the details of everything we have at this time, and there's a reason for that," Mr Avenatti told NBC News. "We understand the American people want all the information right now, immediately. It would make no sense for us to play our hand as to this issue and we're not going to do it right now."

© 2018 Bloomberg

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