LOS ANGELES (CN) – Attorneys who facilitated a hush agreement following an alleged affair between adult film actress Stormy Daniels and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump have filed a motion to arbitrate a dispute over the agreement rather than hash it out in open federal court.
Meanwhile, attorneys for a tabloid sought to dismiss a lawsuit by a former Playboy model who claims she’s being kept from telling her story about her alleged affair with Trump.
Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, first filed her lawsuit in Los Angeles County court on March 6 and asked a judge to find the nondisclosure agreement between herself, Essential Consultants and Trump “void, invalid, or unenforceable” because Trump never signed it. She received $130,000 as part of the agreement, according to her lawsuit.
When Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen got wind of Clifford’s desire to share her story with the media they “aggressively sought to silence Ms. Clifford as part of an effort to avoid her telling the truth, thus helping to ensure he won the presidential election,” Clifford says in her complaint. “Mr. Cohen subsequently prepared a draft nondisclosure agreement and presented it to Ms. Clifford and her attorney.”
Trump, whose name is blacked out in the agreement, used the pseudonym David Dennison and Clifford is listed as Peggy Peterson, according to the 7-page lawsuit with 28 pages of attachments that include the agreement.
Clifford’s lawsuit also includes defamation claims against Cohen, stating he acted with “malice, oppression, or fraud” when he made “defamatory statements” about her, and is therefore “responsible for punitive damages.”
According to Clifford, the defamatory statement occurred in Cohen’s Feb. 13 statement responding to her claims of an affair: “Just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean that it can’t cause you harm or damage,” Cohen said, according to Clifford’s amended lawsuit.
Last week, a federal judge halted a motion by Clifford’s attorney to depose Trump and Cohen about the agreement.
On Monday, attorneys for Essential Consulting filed to compel arbitration in the case, with Trump joining the motion.
Meanwhile, attorneys for the National Enquirer filed an anti-SLAPP motion on Monday to dismiss a lawsuit from the former Playboy model who is also suing to tell her story about an alleged affair with Trump.
Karen McDougal sued the tabloid’s publisher, American Media, claiming the company entered into a contract with her, took down information about the alleged affair and then never published the story.
“So tabloid giant American Media, Inc. worked secretly with Mr. Trump’s personal “fixer” and Ms. McDougal’s own lawyer to buy Ms. McDougal’s silence. Ms. McDougal received $150,000 (nearly half of which went to the lawyer, who she did not realize was colluding with the other side) and a false promise to jumpstart her career as a health and fitness model,” McDougal says in her lawsuit.
She claims the publisher offered her a contract for $150,000 to appear on the cover of “Men’s Fitness” and “Muscle and Fitness Hers” and for her to write a monthly column, neither of which ever occurred.
According to both McDougal and Clifford’s complaints, their sexual encounters with Trump shared several similarities, including meetings at a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel around 2006.
In American Media’s 15-page anti-SLAPP motion, the tabloid says the First Amendment protects its editorial discretion in choosing not to run her story about the alleged affair with Trump. The publisher also says it honored the agreement by providing her with a platform.
“McDougal signed the agreement, accepted $150,000 from AMI, and then 14 wrote 19 bylined articles, was featured in another 6 articles, and was on the cover of a magazine – 15 across four separate AMI publications,” the motion, filed by attorney Jean-Paul Jassy with the Los Angeles-based law firm Jassy Vick Carolan, says.
The publisher adds that even if the editorial decision to kill McDougal’s story helped candidate Trump – which it does not concede – “it is routine and constitutionally protected for the media to express a political view.”
Taking a page from Trump's playbook, the attorneys for Clifford and McDougal took to Twitter after today's filing. Avenatti said he and Clifford will fight the motion to move the proceeding to arbitration.
"We will vigorously oppose the just-filed motion by DJT and MC to have this case decided in a private arbitration, in a private conf room, hidden from the American public. This is a democracy and this matter should be decided in an open court of law owned by the people. #sunlight,” Avenatti tweeted.
Peter Stris, McDougal's attorney, said he looks forward to opposing the motion.
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