President Donald Trump does not believe actress Stormy Daniels‘ hush-money deal, which his former personal lawyer said was done to influence the 2016 presidential election, is valid and will not sue her for breaking the agreement by discussing details of their alleged affair.
In a court filing on Saturday, an attorney for the company set up to handle the deal offered to rescind Ms Daniels’ nondisclosure agreement. The company, Essential Consultants, also scrapped a threatened $20m (£15.4m) lawsuit against Ms Daniels.
The two developments could kill efforts by Ms Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, to force the president to give sworn testimony about what he and his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, might have known about the deal, if a judge agrees to dismiss the case. The offers remove any legal risk to Ms Daniels stemming from her public discussion of the alleged affair and the alleged efforts to hide it.
Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had sex once with Mr Trump in 2006 and carried on a platonic relationship with him for about a year. She was paid $130,000 (£116,000) as part of the agreement signed days before the 2016 election and is suing to dissolve the contract. Ms Daniels has argued the agreement should be invalidated because Mr Cohen signed it, but Mr Trump did not.
In Saturday’s court filing, Mr Trump’s attorney, Charles Harder, said the president doesn’t dispute Ms Daniels’ assertion that the contract isn’t valid and never considered himself as a party to the agreement. Both Mr Trump and Mr Cohen have asked Ms Daniels to now drop her lawsuit.
Essential Consultants was set up by Mr Cohen, who pleaded guilty in federal court last month to campaign-finance violations and other charges. Though Mr Cohen originally denied having made a hush-money payment to Ms Daniels on behalf of Mr Trump, he told the court that he and Mr Trump arranged payments to both Ms Daniels and a former Playboy model to influence the election.
In addition to the offer to quash the agreement, Essential Consultants also agreed to back off its plan to fight Ms Daniels in private arbitration and will not pursue a lawsuit against her, Brent Blakely, an attorney for the company, said in a letter to Ms Daniels’ lawyer. Mr Cohen had said that Ms Daniels could owe $20 million for violating the agreement.
The company wants Daniels to repay the $130,000 she was paid, Mr Blakely wrote.
Mr Avenatti told the Associated Press that he did not have to accept the offer and would not settle the case without deposing Mr Trump and Mr Cohen. He said he was still reviewing his options but wasn’t worried about the developments.
Mr Avenatti said he thought Harder’s court filing was “worthless,” had “numerous problems” and “means nothing”.
“We are tired of the constant delays and games being played,” he said. “We want these depositions as soon as possible.”
Regardless of how a court views the offer by Mr Trump and Mr Cohen’s company to drop efforts to enforce the agreement, Mr Avenatti has other possible legal routes to pursue the president. Mr Daniels is also suing Mr Trump and Mr Cohen for defamation.
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