Stormy Daniels sues Cohen for defamation

Porn star Stormy Daniels filed a lawsuit for defamation against President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Posted: Mar 28, 2018 3:40 PM
Updated: Mar 28, 2018 3:42 PM

Porn star Stormy Daniels filed a lawsuit for defamation on Monday against President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen.

The suit, filed by her lawyer Michael Avenatti in California, came a day after CBS aired a tell-all interview with Daniels regarding an affair she alleges she had with Trump more than a decade ago, and which the White House continues to deny.

Monday's legal maneuver is an additional move in an ongoing suit by Daniels against Cohen, Trump and the limited liability company Cohen has said he established to facilitate a payment to Daniels ahead of the presidential election.

Cohen has denied Daniels' claims but admitted to making the payment. The additional claim that Daniels filed Monday states that Cohen's denial is a defamatory statement.

"It was reasonably understood Mr. Cohen meant to convey that Ms. (Stephanie) Clifford is a liar," the complaint reads, referencing Daniels' real name.

Avenatti added, "Mr. Cohen made the statement knowing it was false or had serious doubts about the truth of the statements."

Reacting to the latest development, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said it is another attempt to compel Cohen, or perhaps even the President, into a deposition under oath.

Toobin said key questions would include whether Cohen actually used his own money to pay Daniels and whether Trump knew about it.

"Those are, I think, the key political issues here, and filing this lawsuit gives Avenatti another opportunity perhaps to get Cohen and perhaps Trump under oath," he said.

Daniels' story came to light in a Wall Street Journal article earlier this year, and the ensuing attention has prompted legal complaints and a whirlwind of questions for Daniels, a porn star who alleges she had sex with Trump and signed a nondisclosure agreement in exchange for the payment from Cohen.

Lawyers for Cohen and Trump have fought back against Daniels and Avenatti in turn, and Cohen in an article published last week quipped about taking "an extended vacation" with the money he anticipates getting from Daniels in court over what he says are violations of the nondisclosure agreement.

In the interview that aired Sunday, Daniels said she was threatened in 2011 to keep quiet about the alleged affair, and in a letter obtained by CNN, the law firm representing Cohen alleged its client had been defamed during Daniels' interview.

New details in amended suit

Monday's filing included several new claims about why Avenatti is arguing the nondisclosure agreement should be considered invalid.

Avenatti writes the agreement should be ruled "invalid, unenforceable and/or void under the doctrine of unconscionability," referring to the $1 million punishment per violation of the NDA. Avenatti argues that figure is a random number and is only "intended to inflict a penalty designed to intimidate and financially cripple" his client.

Cohen violated the NDA when he disclosed details of the agreement to The Wall Street Journal, and it should therefore be considered invalid, Avenatti alleges.

He also asserts that the payment was a violation of campaign finance law because it was designed to suppress speech "on a matter of public concern about a candidate for President."

Avenatti demanded a trial by jury in this case, which is typical of a lawsuit, but was not included in the initial complaint. The suit added several reasons why the arbitration clause of the original agreement is void and argued a court should rule arbitration is not valid.

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