President Donald Trump is finally weighing in on the Stormy Daniels saga. His lawyers claimed in court papers on Friday that the adult film actress — who allegedly had an affair with him beginning in 2006 — has violated a confidentiality agreement at least 20 times, opening her up to damages of $20 million. An attorney for Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, slammed the president's team for pursuing such an enormous amount from a private citizen over "bogus" damages in a maneuver that is "likely unprecedented in our history."
President Trump's lawyers filed two motions on Friday in the United States District Court in California, where Daniels sued to get out of a nondisclosure agreement to stay quiet about her affair with Trump ahead of the election. One of the motions is filed on Trump's behalf and mentions him directly. "Mr. Trump intends to pursue his rights to the fullest extent of the law," it reads. Until now, Trump has tried to keep his distance from the Daniels saga, instead leaving it to his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to deal with. Cohen has claimed he paid Daniels $130,000 with his own personal money.
But as the story continues to move closer to Trump's orbit, Trump himself has had no choice but to get involved. The Wall Street Journal reported that a Trump Organization attorney was listed on confidential arbitration documents that included the restraining order against Daniels. And Daniels is likely to appear on 60 Minutes next Sunday.
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Trump will be represented in his case against Daniels by Charles Harder, who is best known for representing Hulk Hogan in the sex tape case that ultimately brought website Gawker down. Harder previously represented Melania Trump in a defamation case against the Daily Mail.
Michael Avenatti, a lawyer representing Daniels, slammed Friday's filings as a "bullying tactic" from the president and Cohen. He said their attempts to move the case from the state court in Los Angeles where Daniels filed her claim to a federal court is because that would increase the chances the matter be decided in private arbitration, "thus hiding the truth from the public."
He also said that the president's decision to sue Daniels for $20 million in "bogus" damages is "remarkable." He added, "We are NOT going away and we will NOT be intimidated."
That Trump would be willing to sue Daniels is not surprising. USA Today found during the 2016 campaign that Trump and his businesses had been involved in at least 3,500 legal actions in state and federal courts over the course of three decades.
The ongoing saga over Trump's alleged affair with Daniels and the attempts to keep her from speaking out about it has continued to grow in recent days. Vox's Jen Kirby on Friday wrapped up the latest in Stormy Daniels news, which beyond the $20 million lawsuit includes the Trump Organization's ties to efforts to keep Daniels from talking, efforts by BuzzFeed to leverage a separate lawsuit against it to get Daniels to talk, and her tentative impending appearance on 60 Minuteson March 25. Per Kirby:
This week's news is more evidence that the Daniels story, first reported in January, won't die quietly. The latest developments continue to raise serious questions as to whether the $130,000 Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) received in hush money just days before the presidential election is an illegal campaign payment.
While Trump has weighed in on the matter in court filings, he has not commented on it publicly otherwise. It hasn't showed up on his Twitter feed — yet.