Breaking: Trump denies knowledge of USD$130,000 hush money paid to prostitute Stormy Daniels New York[RR]Washington-DC–US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he didn’t know about the USD$130,000 payment his personal attorney made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges she and the president had an affair. Asked aboard Air Force One whether he knew […]
New York[RR]Washington-DC–US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he didn’t know about the USD$130,000 payment his personal attorney made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges she and the president had an affair.
Asked aboard Air Force One whether he knew about the payment, Trump responded: “No.”
Trump also said he didn’t know why his long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen, had made the payment or where he got the money.
“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael,” he said.
The comments are Trump’s first public remarks on the payment to Daniels, US media report. Daniels says she had a sexual encounter with the president in 2006 and was paid as part of a non-disclosure agreement she is seeking to invalidate.
Her attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted in response: “We very much look forward to testing the truthfulness of Mr Trump’s feigned lack of knowledge concerning the $130k payment as stated on Air Force One.”
“As history teaches us,” he added, “it is one thing to deceive the press and quite another to do so under oath.”
Accordingto NYTimes, “Mr. Trump made his first public remarks about the matter aboard Air Force One as he returned to Washington from White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., where he had held a round table on tax cuts. Asked by a reporter if he knew about the payment to the actress, Stormy Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, he said, “No.”
Asked why Michael D. Cohen, his personal lawyer, had made the payment, Mr. Trump said: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney, and you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.”
“The president said he did not know where the money had come from, and ignored a question about whether he ever set up a fund Mr. Cohen could draw from.
Ms. Clifford has said that she was paid $130,000 before the 2016 election to buy her silence. she is now suing Mr. Trump to abrogate a nondisclosure agreement that was supposed to prevent her from discussing the relationship. She claims the agreement is null and void because Mr. Trump never signed it.
The president’s comments on Thursday could create a predicament for him and his legal team. Ms. Clifford’s case is based on the notion that the confidentiality agreement is invalid because Mr. Trump was not a party to it. By saying he was not aware of the agreement, Mr. Trump appeared to confirm that argument, which would mean neither party is legally bound by it, thus potentially paving the way for Ms. Clifford to break her silence without consequences.
Ms. Clifford’s pugnacious lawyer, Michael J. Avenatti, quickly issued a statement to respond to Mr. Trump’s claim. He said that the president’s professed ignorance of the payment would improve his client’s case, suggesting that he would use legal discovery to expose the back and forth around the payment.
“Our case just got that much better,” Mr. Avenatti said in the statement. “We very much look forward to testing the truthfulness of Mr. Trump’s feigned lack of knowledge concerning the $130,000 as he stated on Air Force One.”
“As history teaches us, it is one thing to deceive the press and quite another to do so under oath,” he added.
Later, Mr. Avenatti appeared to exult on Twitter about what he suggested were undisciplined comments by Mr. Trump that would give Ms. Clifford the upper hand in the legal dispute.
“Good (actually GREAT) things come to those who wait!!!” Mr. Avenatti wrote: “The strength of our case just went up exponentially. You can’t have an agreement when one party claims to know nothing about it. #nodiscipline.”
Mr. Cohen did not respond on Thursday to requests for comment. Charles Harder, a lawyer representing Mr. Trump in his legal wrangling with Ms. Clifford, also did not respond to requests for comment on the president’s remarks and how they could affect his case.
Mr. Trump and a company affiliated with him filed papers in court on Monday seeking to force Ms. Clifford to raise her disputes through private arbitration, not lawsuits.
Arbitration would shield the case from public view, sparing Mr. Trump the public spectacle that would attend a lawsuit with a discovery process and a trial. Mr. Avenatti said at the time that he would vigorously oppose the effort to resolve the case privately. In fact, on Thursday night, he said that Mr. Trump’s remarks had made him more determined than ever to try to depose the president.
“If the president didn’t know anything about the payment, then he obviously didn’t know anything about the agreement, in which case you can’t have an agreement,” Mr. Avenatti said in an interview on MSNBC. “And then there is no such thing as an NDA,” he added, referring to a nondisclosure agreement.
“Now if, on the other hand, what he said on Air Force One is not accurate — and I, for one, have serious questions as to its veracity or accuracy — they’ve got a whole host of problems,” Mr. Avenatti said.
The president and his lawyers have been working to prevent Ms. Clifford, who sat for a lengthy interview that aired on “60 Minutes”, last month, from making further public statements.
In February, she said that she believed that Mr. Cohen has violated the agreement and that she, as a result, was no longer bound by it. Mr. Cohen secretly obtained a restraining order late that month to prevent her from speaking.
Then last month, Mr. Trump’s legal team filed a motion asking to move the case from state court to federal court, which may have been an effort to increase the likelihood that it would be resolved in arbitration.
Jim Rutenberg contributed reporting from Los Angeles.