Stormy Daniels sues Trump, claiming he never signed ‘hush agreement’

  • Author: Rebecca R. Ruiz, Matt Stevens, The New York Times
  • Updated: March 7
  • Published March 7

LOS ANGELES — 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 Tuesday by a lawyer for the actress.

Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File

The filing, in Los Angeles Superior Court, represents the latest development in a legal battle involving Trump, his longtime personal lawyer and the actress, Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels.

The lawsuit came days after Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, had legally pressured 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 Trump, according to the complaint.

The suit, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, alleges that 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 Cohen proceeded to wire $130,000 to a trust account held by a lawyer for Clifford. The court documents filed 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," said Michael J. Avenatti, a lawyer representing Clifford in the suit.

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, Cohen said he had paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to Clifford, and that he had not been reimbursed by the Trump Organization or the campaign.

"Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly," 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 Trump had been aware that Cohen made the payment, why he made the payment or whether he had made similar payments to other people.

Cohen has previously said that Trump has denied an affair with Clifford. She has said the affair took place soon after Trump's wife, Melania, gave birth to the couple's son, Barron. Tuesday's lawsuit reiterated that timeline, saying Clifford and Trump began an "intimate relationship" in the summer of 2006; the relationship continued "well into" 2007, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday also made public for the first time the onerous terms of the full two-part contract, which Clifford signed on Oct. 28, 2016 — days before the presidential election. The agreement required 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 Trump, according to the complaint — were blank on the copies of the contracts attached to the court filing.

The lawyer who represented Clifford in the 2016 negotiations, Keith M. Davidson, did not immediately respond to request for comment. Davidson also represented Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who received a $150,000 payment in August 2016 that prevented her from going public with her own allegations of an affair with Trump.

Rebecca R. Ruiz reported from Los Angeles, and Matt Stevens from New York. Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from Washington.