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A lawyer for President Donald Trump last week reportedly obtained a secret restraining order barring porn star Stormy Daniels from disclosing details of what she has said was an intimate relationship with Trump and on Wednesday again "threatened" her if she talks.
NBC News revealed Wednesday that Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen — who has admitted facilitating a $130,000 payment to Daniels — obtained from a private arbitrator an order prohibiting her from disclosing "confidential information" related to a nondisclosure agreement she signed in exchange for that cash.
In a statement sent to CNBC, Cohen's lawyer Lawrence Rosen said:
The Settlement Agreement contained an arbitration clause that permitted EC, LLC. to seek an injunction in the event of a breach or threatened breach of the agreement. The designated judge from the arbitration tribunal found that Ms. Clifford had violated the agreement and enjoined her from, among other things, filing this lawsuit. We intend to pursue our recourse in the context of the arbitration as agreed to by the parties and continue to categorically refute the claims alleged by Ms. Clifford and her counsel.
EC is a reference to Essential Consultants, a company set up by Cohen that was used to pay Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
NBC's story came a day after Daniels sued Trump in a Los Angeles court in an effort to void that nondisclosure agreement, which she signed in October 2016, right before the presidential election that Trump won.
And it came hours after Daniels' lawyer told NBC's "TODAY" show that Daniels had had sex a decade ago with Trump — and that Trump had to have known about Cohen's arrangement to pay Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet before the election about their tryst.
Michael Avenatti, Daniels' attorney, also said that she is "prepared" to return that money if need be.
Avenatti said that agreement is not legally valid because Trump never signed it.
The lawyer said he believed Trump did not sign that document — which used pseudonyms for the parties involved — "so that he could later claim deniability" about the affair with Daniels.
"It's our position that the entire document is null and void," Avenatti said.
If Avenatti's conclusion is accurate, then the agreement's requirement that disputes between the parties to the deal would be settled by arbitration likewise would not be binding.
Hours after Avenatti's interview aired, NBC News revealed that Cohen on Feb. 28 had gotten the temporary restraining order, as part of what Daniels' suit has called a "bogus arbitration" proceeding against her.
Avenatti is quoted in the NBC News story as saying that Cohen, through his own attorney Rosen, has since made other efforts both to enforce the restraining order and to warn Daniels that she would be subject to damages if she talks about Trump.
"Earlier today, Mr. Cohen through his attorney, Mr. Rosen, further threatened my client in an effort to prevent her from telling the truth about what really happened," Avenatti told NBC News.
"We do not take kindly to these threats, nor we will be intimidated."
Daniels says in her suit that she had "an intimate relationship" with Trump that began in the summer of 2006 and which continued into 2007. Trump's wife Melania gave birth to their son Barron in March 2006.
"Did she have a sexual relationship with the president?" Avenatti was asked about Daniels on the "TODAY" show.
"Yes," the lawyer replied.
Asked if Cohen and Trump had tried to buy her silence with the payment in 2016, Avenatti said, "Exactly."
The nonprofit government watchdog group Common Cause has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission about the payment, which it has called an undisclosed in-kind contribution to Trump's presidential campaign.
In January, Cohen said: "These rumors have circulated time and again since 2011. President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels."
Cohen has acknowledged facilitating the payment to Daniels from his own funds, but he declined to say what it was for.
Avenatti told the "TODAY" show that "there's no question the president knew about it [the payment] at the time," adding that the idea that a lawyer would have gone off on his own to make such a deal is "ludicrous."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about the payment to Daniels on Wednesday afternoon at a briefing.
"I've had conversations with the president about this, and as I've outlined earlier this case had already been won in arbitration, and that there was no knowledge of any payments from the president and he has denied all of these allegations," Sanders said.
"None of the allegations is true," Sanders said.
NBC News reported that Trump's name is not on the arbitration case filed by Cohen.
Avenatti said on the "TODAY" show that he would leave it to Daniels to disclose whether she still had photos, images and documents to back up her claims of a relationship.
But he also said, "We certainly haven't disclosed all the facts and evidence we're aware of."
Asked whether Daniels, in filing the suit, was looking to be free to sell her story for payment, Avenatti said, "No."
"She's looking to disclose the truth about what happened," Avenatti said.
"I think it's time for her to tell her story, and for the public to determine who is telling the truth."
The lawyer said Daniels believed filing the suit was "important" because of the dissemination of "misinformation" by Cohen and others.
Asked to explain a statement Daniels issued Jan. 10 in which she denied having an affair with Trump and having received hush money from Cohen, Avenatti told the "TODAY" show that she had been forced to issue that denial.
"Mr. Cohen demanded that she sign that statement," Avenatti said. "We believe it was done through force and intimidation."
"It's a false statement, absolutely," he said of Daniels' denial.
The lawyer said that if Daniels prevails in her lawsuit "she may have to" return the money she got from Cohen.
"And she's prepared to do that," Avenatti said.