Donald Trump never signed the nondisclosure agreement lawyers had presented in 2016 to a pornographic-film actress, rendering it null and void, according to a lawsuit filed on Tuesday by a lawyer for the actress.
The filing, in Los Angeles Superior Court, represents the latest development in a legal battle involving Mr Trump, his longtime personal lawyer and the actress, Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels.
The lawsuit came days after Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, had legally pressured Ms Clifford, initiating arbitration proceedings against her in Los Angeles in efforts to prevent her from speaking out about an affair she said she had with Mr Trump, according to the complaint.
The suit, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, alleges that Mr Trump “purposely did not sign the agreement so he could later, if need be, publicly disavow any knowledge of the Hush Agreement and Ms Clifford”.
Despite not having a nondisclosure agreement in place, the lawsuit says Mr. Cohen proceeded to wire $US130,000 ($166,000) to a trust account held by a lawyer for Ms Clifford. The court documents filed on Tuesday do not make clear when that payment was made.
The lawsuit asks the judge to formally declare that either no agreement was formed, or that, to the extent an agreement was formed, it is invalid.
“We fully intend on bringing as much sunlight to this matter as possible,” Michael Avenatti, a lawyer representing Ms Clifford in the suit, said.
Mr Cohen did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment. The White House also did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.
Last month, Mr Cohen said that he had paid $US130,000 out of his own pocket to Ms Clifford, and that he had not been reimbursed by the Trump Organisation or the campaign.
“Neither the Trump Organisation nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Mr Cohen said in a statement at the time.
“The payment to Ms Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”
He declined to answer several follow-up questions, including whether Mr Trump had been aware that Mr Cohen made the payment, why he made the payment or whether he had made similar payments to other people.
Mr Cohen has previously said that Mr Trump has denied an affair with Ms Clifford.
She has said the affair took place soon after Mr Trump’s wife, Melania, gave birth to the couple’s son, Barron. Tuesday’s lawsuit reiterated that timeline, saying Ms Clifford and Mr Trump began an “intimate relationship” in the summer of 2006; the relationship continued “well into” 2007, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit filed on Tuesday also made public for the first time the onerous terms of the full two-part contract, which Ms Clifford signed on Oct. 28, 2016 — days before the presidential election.
Earlier today, we filed this complaint seeking a ct order voiding the alleged “hush” agreement between our client S. Clifford aka Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump. https://t.co/upa9u10MqR
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 7, 2018
The agreement required Ms Clifford to pay at least $1 million should she violate it, and to resolve any disputes related to the contract through binding confidential arbitration.
The lines for the signatures of David Dennison — a pseudonym for Mr Trump, according to the complaint — were blank on the copies of the contracts attached to the court filing.
The lawyer who represented Ms. Clifford in the 2016 negotiations, Keith M. Davidson, did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Mr Davidson also represented Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who received a $US150,000 ($192,000) payment in August 2016 that prevented her from going public with her own allegations of an affair with Mr Trump.
-The New York Times