The key points of a case that has gradually been placed at the center of the problems of the president of the United StatesA porn actress has denounced the president of the United States for not letting her tell in public that she slept with him in a golf tournament. The president and his lawyers deny the facts. With everything that has happened around the White House, and waiting for some investigation into the Russian plot to materialize, this may be the most important legal mess that Donald Trump finds himself in.
The decision is in the hands of a judge in Los Angeles. Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, is an unexpected headache for the president of the United States. Every day that passes, he is gaining attention to his case and, therefore, to a murky episode even for Trump.. These are the keys to why this case may be more important than a morbid headline.
Case number BC696568 of the Superior Court of California was opened on Tuesday, March 6, with the filing of a lawsuit at the Los Angeles headquarters. The plaintiff is Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels and who in some places of the lawsuit appears as Peggy Peterson. The defendant is Donald Trump, who is said to also use the name of David Dennison. The other defendant is a limited consulting company, Defendan Essential Consultants LLC, based in Delaware.
According to the account of the facts of the lawsuit, “Ms. Clifford began an intimate relationship with Mr. Trump in the summer of 2006 on Lake Tahoe and continued her relationship well into 2007. This relationship included, among other things, least a meeting with Mr. Trump in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “
Clifford had already told this adventure once. But at the beginning of October 2016, when the Access Hollywood film in which Trump made degrading comments about women was published, he looked for a way to tell it again. That was when, according to the lawsuit, “Mr. Trump, with the help of his lawyer, Mr. (Michael) Cohen , aggressively sought to silence Miss Clifford as part of an attempt to prevent her from telling the truth, and thus help him in the presidential election. “
The lawsuit then states that the limited company was created by Cohen to hide the source from which the funds would come to buy his silence. Cohen presented her with a confidentiality agreement in which she was named Peggy Peterson (PP) and Trump as David Dennison (DD). By this agreement she would receive $ 130,000 in exchange for her silence. The lawsuit asks that the court annul the agreement, in such a way that she is free of risks if she decides to speak.
The confidentiality agreement
The most interesting thing about Clifford’s suit, presented through the lawyer Michael Avenatti, is that it includes as proof the confidentiality agreement. That is, by asking a judge to annul the agreement, in fact it is already violating it, because it recognizes its existence and publishes its terms. By asking the judge to let him tell his story, in fact he is already telling it. Avenatti has left little doubt that he seeks maximum publicity: the full document is posted on Twitter.
Clifford’s offensive allows the public to take an unprecedented look into the world of celebrity confidentiality agreements. According to its own terms, this agreement does not exist. The terms are brutal for the woman.
The agreement begins by saying that PP has “confidential information” that belongs to DD, specifically “certain photos and / or text messages”. PP agrees to give DD all the copies in all formats, not to keep anything that may be the intellectual property of DD, never speak to anyone about what happened, never communicate with DD or his family for any reason, he must give the names of all the people you have taught or shared any information about DD. If DD even suspects that PP retains that information, he can take legal action against it. DD will never talk about the agreement, nor will he recognize its existence.
She receives $ 130,000. He has the right to sue her for at least one million dollars for each violation of the agreement. The parties agree that any dispute over this agreement will be resolved by arbitration. The arbitrator is designated in the contract and DD is the one who chooses in which jurisdiction it would be carried out.
The secret arbitral award
That’s exactly what Trump’s lawyer (DD), Michael Cohen, did on February 27. Given the possibility that Daniels (who has already given an interview to People ) began to speak, or perhaps to publish other things, sought secretly and completely unilaterally an arbitration award to strengthen the confidentiality agreement. Nobody knew about this arbitration award until the White House spokeswoman in person, Sarah Huckabee, told her when a reporter asked about Clifford’s lawsuit: “This matter has already been won in arbitration,” he said.
The emergency award reaffirms the terms of the agreement and reminds Stephanie Clifford that she can not reveal anything. The lawsuit filed by Clifford a week later is a response to that equally aggressive award. Clifford makes the whole thing public by introducing him to a judge in Los Angeles.
The arguments of Stormy Daniels
The actress seeks with the demand the nullity of the confidentiality agreement. The main reason is that Donald Trump did not sign it. And it’s true. The agreement has three spaces for firms: Peterson (Clifford), Essential Consultants and Dennison (Trump). The Trump line is empty. Therefore, he says, the agreement is not valid. But he wants a judge to say it. Trump “did not sign the agreement on purpose, so that he could, if he needed it, deny all knowledge of the agreement and Miss Clifford,” the lawsuit says.
Cohen told reporters that Trump never knew anything about the agreement and that he “facilitated” the payment of $ 130,000 out of pocket. The lawsuit argues that it is impossible for Trump not to know and that, in such a case, Cohen violated the rules of the legal profession, because his presence in this whole case is justified only because he is the legal representative of Donald Trump.
In addition, the lawyer Michael Cohen acknowledged on February 13, before press revelations about the payment of $ 130,000, that the confidentiality agreement existed. Mere acknowledgment is a violation of the agreement, so Clifford would be released to speak as well. In any case, he wants a judge to say so.
In addition, by revealing the way in which the payment was made, Clifford has unleashed another line of investigation. There is already a complaint that seeks to know if the payment can constitute an illegal donation to the Trump campaign, if Cohen did it, or a violation of the transparency rules, if Trump did it, because it was not reported at the time.
It is not clear, in case of winning, what Clifford has that could embarrass Trump apart from the sexual story. If Clifford keeps in his possession “texts” and “images” of David Dennison (Donald Trump) he would have violated the agreement. If he fulfilled all the terms of the agreement in his day, Trump and his lawyers have nothing to fear, since all he can do is tell his story, as he has already done several times.
Trump’s team could maintain the status quo that it is her word against the president. The aggressiveness of Trump’s lawyer suggests that he fears that Clifford has more than his word in his power.
But Clifford does not need to have reason to win the image battle. It is worth to him that the judge of Los Angeles considers that he could be right and that it is worth studying the matter to put Trump and Cohen in an important mess. If the lawsuit goes ahead, Trump is already losing.
It is not so important to know what happened between Trump and Clifford in a hotel in 2006 (in principle, a consented relationship between adults). What is truly harmful would be the process itself, which Trump may be forced to reaffirm in his denial of the facts or publicly admit that he lied.
On Friday, in an interview on CNN, Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, made it clear that his final intention is to get a judge to take a statement from Donald Trump. “It’s worth an hour. That’s how simple I think it is in this case. “
The whole country has Paula Jones’ case against Bill Clinton in his head. The complaint of this Arkansas official against the president for sexual harassment was what ended in Clinton’s impeachment for lying. Since Friday, it’s not unreasonable.