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White House denies Trump had affair with adult-film actress

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The lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels told ABC News that Donald Trump must have known about the deal negotiated just days before the 2016 election to pay the actress $130,000 to keep quiet about her alleged 2006 affair with Trump, reported ABC News (US).

“Any suggestion that he didn't know about it is, quite honestly, absurd,” said Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ attorney. “We believe that he absolutely knew about it.”

Daniels filed a lawsuit against Trump this week arguing that the “hush” agreement, the existence of which was first revealed by the Wall Street Journal, is invalid because Trump never signed it. Avenatti described the agreement as “sloppy.”

“The fact of the matter is this was amateur hour,” he said.

The hush agreement refers to Daniels throughout as “Peggy Peterson” or “PP” and Trump as “David Dennison” or “DD” in the copy of the document provided to ABC News by Avenatti. The line where where "DD" was supposed to sign is blank.

“He purposely did not sign it so that later he could have deniability as to its existence,” Avenatti told ABC News.

Avenatti also claims that a pair of statements signed by Daniels denying the affair took place were not only “false” but also obtained under some form of duress.

“She was coerced into signing those documents,” he said.

When asked directly about the dispute, White House Communications Director Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that the president has already prevailed in an arbitration over the dispute, but would not elaborate on what had occurred.

“Look, the president has addressed these directly and made very well clear that none of these allegations are true,” Sanders said. “It has already been won in arbitration. Anything in addition to that I would refer you to the president's outside counsel.”

The lawsuit filed by Daniels references an attempt by Cohen to initiate what the suit calls “an improper and procedurally defective arbitration proceeding hidden from public view” in the past week.

“Because there was never a valid agreement, and thus no agreement to arbitrate, any subsequent order obtained by Mr. Cohen and/or Mr. Trump is of no consequence or effect," the lawsuit reads.

When Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen acknowledged last month that he had personally produced the $130,000 for the deal with Daniels, some Washington legal experts suggested it could be viewed as an illegal, in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign. Cohen has disputed that assessment in a statement to ABC News.

“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Cohen said. “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”

Whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller has become interested in probing these transactions amid his ongoing investigation of other alleged campaign misdeeds, Avenatti won’t say.

“I'm not gonna answer any questions as to Robert Mueller,” Avenatti said, when asked whether Daniels has been contacted by anyone from Mueller’s office.

Neither Cohen nor a Washington attorney representing him have respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Daniels, 38, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has starred in several pornographic films and appeared in a pair of raunchy big-budget comedies — “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up.”

In a previously shelved 2011 interview recently published by In Touch magazine, Daniels said the then-real estate mogul turned reality television star invited her to his hotel suite at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in 2006. She described a sexual encounter with the future president in salacious detail.

According to the lawsuit, Trump and Daniels had a relationship that lasted from the summer of 2006 "well into the year 2007." She offered to share her story with mainstream outlets, including ABC News, in the months leading up to the 2016 election, which Avenatti says prompted Cohen to reach out to strike a deal.

Daniels contends that efforts to keep her quiet have been ongoing, including what was described in the suit as the “bogus arbitration proceeding” initiated in Los Angeles in late February.

“To be clear, the attempts to intimidate Ms. Clifford into silence and shut her up in order to ‘protect Mr. Trump’ continue unabated,” her lawsuit says.

***

The White House denied that President Trump had an affair with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who is aggressively pursuing legal avenues to free herself from a contract that prohibits her from talking about their alleged relationship, reported The Hill (US).

“The president has addressed these directly and made very well clear that none of these allegations are true,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a White House briefing. “It has already been won in arbitration.”

Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen has acknowledged paying Daniels — whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford — $130,000 to not discuss her claims of an affair with Trump.

The White House pointed to an arbitration hearing that took place in a Los Angeles court in late February. Sanders said that Trump's lawyer won the arbitration and that the judge ruled the nondisclosure agreement with Daniels to be binding.

But Daniels's lawyers filed a grievance in court this week claiming that Cohen had “surreptitiously initiated a bogus arbitration proceeding” against her without providing the notice of the proceeding or “basic due process.”

Daniels does not dispute that she signed a nondisclosure agreement and accepted the money from Trump’s lawyer.

But her lawyers say that Cohen nullified the terms of their agreement by acknowledging publicly that he had paid her to keep quiet.

They also say that Trump never signed the contract and that since he’s party to the agreement, it is not binding.

“Mr. Trump purposely did not sign the agreement so he could later, if need be, publicly disavow knowledge,” Daniels’s lawyers said in a new court filing this week.

Daniels claims that she had a sexual encounter with Trump at Lake Tahoe in 2006 — while he was married to now-first lady Melania Trump — and that they continued to see one another into 2007, including at a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Daniels also says that Cohen reached out to her with the “hush agreement,” setting up a group called Essential Consultants in October 2016 to facilitate the payment.

Sanders said Wednesday that she does not believe the president knew about the payment. She referred all other questions to Cohen and said she did not know the last time the president spoke to his personal lawyer.

Cohen has said the president did not know about the payment and that neither the president nor the campaign reimbursed him for it.

“In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of 130k to Stephanie Clifford,” he said in a statement last month. “Neither the Trump organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.”

Daniels's lawyers say New York law would require Trump be kept in the loop if his lawyer made a payment on his behalf.

“The extent of Mr. Trump’s involvement in these efforts is presently unknown, but it strains credulity to conclude that Mr. Cohen is acting on his own accord without the express approval and knowledge of his client Mr. Trump,” her lawyers said in a filing this week.

Some election watchdogs say the payment may run afoul of election laws if the payment was made so as not to damage Trump’s presidential ambitions.

Conservative lawyers say that as a public person, there are scores of reasons why the president would have had to protect his reputation that go well beyond the campaign.

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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Category: Politics
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