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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Lawyer: Donald Trump does not think Stormy Daniels deal is valid

Daniels's lawyer still pushing for deposition from US president and Michael Cohen

US President Donald Trump has withdrawn threats he would sue Stormy Daniels. AFP
US President Donald Trump has withdrawn threats he would sue Stormy Daniels. AFP

US President Donald Trump does not believe adult-film actress Stormy Daniels' hush-money deal, which his former personal lawyer said was done to influence the 2016 presidential election, is valid. He will not carry out threats to sue her for breaking the agreement by discussing details of their alleged affair, Mr Trump's lawyer said in a court filing on Saturday.

Hours earlier, a lawyer for the company set up to handle the deal offered to rescind Ms Daniels' non-disclosure agreement. The company, Essential Consultants, also scrapped a threatened US$20 million (Dh73.5m) lawsuit against Ms Daniels.

The offer would remove any legal risk to Ms Daniels stemming from her public discussion of the alleged affair and alleged efforts to hide it. But if a court were to find that the proposal resolved the underlying controversy in her litigation with former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, the development could kill efforts by Ms Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, to try to compel the president to give sworn testimony.

Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she shared an intimate moment with Mr Trump in 2006 and carried on a platonic relationship with him for about a year. She was paid $130,000 as part of the agreement signed days before the 2016 election and is suing to dissolve the contract. Ms Daniels argued the agreement should be invalidated because Mr Cohen signed it, but Mr Trump did not.

In Saturday's court filing, Mr Trump's lawyer, Charles Harder, said the president did not dispute Ms Daniels's assertion that the contract is not valid and never considered himself a party to the agreement. Both Mr Trump and Mr Cohen have asked Ms Daniels to drop her lawsuit.

Essential Consultants was set up by Mr Cohen, who pleaded guilty in federal court last month to campaign-finance violations and other charges. Though Mr Cohen originally denied making a hush-money payment to Ms Daniels on behalf of Mr Trump, he told the court that he and Mr Trump arranged payments to both Ms Daniels and a former Playboy model to influence the election.

In addition to the offer to quash the agreement, Essential Consultants also agreed to drop its plan to fight Ms Daniels in private arbitration and will not pursue a lawsuit against her, Brent Blakely, a lawyer for the company, said in a letter to Ms Daniels' lawyer. Mr Cohen had said Ms Daniels could owe $20 million for breaking the agreement.

The company wants Ms Daniels to repay the $130,000 she was paid, Blakely wrote.

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Mr Avenatti said he did not have to accept the offer and would not settle the case without deposing Mr Trump and Mr Cohen. He said he was still reviewing his options, but was not worried about the developments.

Mr Harder's court filing was "worthless", had "numerous problems" and "means nothing", Mr Avenatti said.

"We are tired of the constant delays and games being played," he said. "We want these depositions as soon as possible."

Regardless of how a court views the offer by Mr Trump and Mr Cohen's company to drop efforts to enforce the agreement, Mr Avenatti has other possible legal routes to pursue the president. Ms Daniels is also suing Mr Trump and Mr Cohen for defamation.

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