LOS ANGELES (CN) - An attorney for President Donald Trump asked a federal judge Tuesday to throw out porn actress Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit seeking to nullify a confidentiality agreement over their alleged affair.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump to get out of the hush agreement Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen and the shell company created by Cohen to facilitate the agreement, Essential Consultants, LLC, put together in 2016.
Under the agreement, which listed Daniels as Peggy Peterson and Trump as David Dennison, Daniels received $130,000 for her silence.
Trump’s attorneys responded to the lawsuit by filing court briefs in which they offered to tear up the agreement and cancel arbitration proceedings over Daniels’ alleged violations of the contract.
Brent Blakely, an attorney for Essential Consultants, told U.S District Judge S. James Otero at a hearing Tuesday that he should dismiss the entire case because the company promised not to sue to enforce the agreement, making Daniels’ claims moot.
“The [non-disclosure] agreement was extinguished as if it never existed,” Blakely said, citing a proposed settlement between the parties. “There was a rescission and a covenant not to sue.”
Blakely added that the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction falls on Daniels.
But Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, said she never sought a rescission of the contract. Instead, her complaint sought a declaratory judgment that the agreement was illegal to begin with.
“You couldn’t be more correct,” Otero said while viewing Daniels’ complaint Tuesday.
But Blakely argued Daniels’ lawsuit doesn’t have to say “rescission” to qualify as a motion to rescind a contract.
Avenatti said the court can’t dismiss Daniels’ lawsuit while Trump’s defamation claims linger over the case.
Otero ordered Daniels to pay $293,000 in legal fees to Trump in December after her defamation lawsuit against him failed.
“The court can’t have selective subject matter jurisdiction,” Avenatti said.
“It seems [defendants] have offered you what your declaratory relief action sought to achieve,” Otero said, adding that he understood why Avenatti might seek “for personal reasons” a declaration from the court that the hush agreement was illegal.
“What do you mean by ‘personal reasons,’ your honor?” Avenatti asked, but Otero urged him to move on.
Trump’s attorney Charles Harder said Tuesday that the case should be tossed because the deal never existed.
“My client never signed [the agreement],” Harder said.
Otero pressed Harder over whether his court brief stating Trump promised not to sue Daniels represents the president’s true desires.
“Do you have express authority to bind Trump?” Otero said. “Is this covenant irrevocable?”
“Yes,” Harder answered.
But Avenatti disagreed.
“Our position is that Harder’s representation holds no water,” Avenatti said. “Trump must submit a signed covenant not to sue.”
In court briefs opposing the effort to dismiss her case, Daniels said Trump has been deceiving the court for months by threatening to make her pay millions for violating a hush agreement even though the contract was never valid.
“Defendants cannot now simply walk away and claim that the agreement was never a binding contract to begin with in order to moot Plaintiff’s claims and avoid an otherwise unfavorable result,” Daniels’ argued in her brief, adding that the defendants are forcing her “to accept their chosen remedies.”
Otero said the issue of attorneys fees should be addressed in subsequent pleadings. He did not indicate when he would issue a ruling.
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