Sunday 18 November 2018

Trump breaks silence on Stormy Daniels allegations

Daniels claims she had an affair with the president in 2006, which both the president and the White House have denied

Stormy Daniels. Photo: AP
Stormy Daniels. Photo: AP

Clark Mindock

Donald Trump said that he did not know about the $130,000 (€106,293) his personal lawyer Michael Cohen paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with him, in the president's first public comments about the allegations.

The payment came in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign. When asked if he knew about the payment aboard Air Force One flying back from a trip to West Virginia, Mr Trump replied with a flat "No".

Mr Trump also said he did not know why Mr Cohen had made the payment: “You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael.”

Responding to a second follow up, Mr Trump said he did not know where the money even came from. “No, I don’t know,” he said.

Until now, Trump had avoided any questions on Ms Daniels – real name Stephanie Clifford – though the White House has consistently said Mr Trump denies there was a relationship. Still, he has been dogged by the focus Ms Daniels, who says she had a sexual encounter with the president in 2006 and was paid to keep quiet about it as part of a non-disclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election. Ms Daniels is now seeking to invalidate that agreement.

Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has argued that the agreement is invalidated as the president himself did not put personally sign the document. He has also claimed that Mr Cohen broke the non-disclosure agreement by commenting publicly about the contract.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

In a tweeted response to Mr Trump's remarks on Thursday, Mr Avenatti said: “We very much look forward to testing the truthfulness of Mr. Trump's feigned lack of knowledge concerning the $130k payment as stated on Air Force One.”

“As history teaches us,” he added, “it is one thing to deceive the press and quite another to do so under oath.”

Ms Daniels publicly discussed her allegations for the first time late last month on CBS’ ’60 Minutes’ programme, when she alleged that she was threatened in 2011 while in a car park with her infant daughter to discourage her from discussing the alleged relationship.

Ms Daniels said she was on her way to a fitness class with her child when an unknown man approached her, according to an interview broadcast on Sunday.

“And a guy walked up on me and said to me, 'Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.' And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, 'That's a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom.' And then he was gone,” Ms Daniels said.

In the interview, Ms Daniels was asked why she repeatedly signed statements denying the relationship with Mr Trump, and acknowledged that there could be questions about her credibility.

“I felt intimidated and ... honestly bullied. And I didn't know what to do. And so I signed it,” Ms Daniels said.

Last month, a law firm representing Mr Trump and the corporation owned by Mr Cohen, claimed Ms Daniels could owe more than $20m (£14.3m) in damages for violating the nondisclosure agreement. The court document alleges Ms Daniels is guilty of at least 20 violations of the agreement's confidentiality clause and could face a $1m (€800,000) penalty for each violation

David Schwartz, spokesman for Mr Cohen, issued a statement in response to Mr Trump's remarks on Air Force One.

“This is an accurate assessment of the facts,“ Mr Schwartz said. ”This is exactly what I have been saying all along. Michael Cohen made the payment to protect reputation, family and business. It had nothing to do with the election.”

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